A system using DNA testing to distinguish real from fake Kobe beef will be implemented from October as part of efforts to protect the reputation of the high-end meat, an industry body said Wednesday.
According to the Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Promotion Association, farmers will be able to bring live cattle to a meat center where certified samples of Kobe beef will be assigned unique identification numbers and stored for five years.
If meat is suspected of being falsely advertised as Kobe beef at butcher's shops or restaurants after distribution, samples of that meat will be matched against the DNA of the stored specimens.
"We want to create a system to reassure consumers as they enjoy Kobe beef," said an official of the industry body.
The association, which has registered a trademark for Kobe beef, only certifies the brand for use with Japanese cattle farmed in Hyogo Prefecture that meet strict ancestry criteria and quality standards.
Known for its tenderness and high degree of fat marbling, Kobe beef has risen in popularity overseas, making management of the brand challenging. Exports of the prestigious Japanese meat began in 2012, with Macao and the United States among the first destinations.
In Yamagata Prefecture in northeastern Japan, a group that promotes Yonezawa brand beef has also implemented a system for DNA testing, using the hair root of cattle for stored specimens. The testing has not only proven effective in countering illegal use of the brand but has also led to tighter controls preventing mix-ups and other mistakes.