The well-marbled slabs sell for 5,000 yen (£51) a kilo in luxury department stores. Before slaughter, the cattle are treated to beer and daily massages to make them plump and to spread their fat content evenly.
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Fourteen miles north of the earthquake zone in western Japan, the pampered Kobe cattle are alive and well. The 3,000 cattle, raised mostly around Sanda, eventually will be slaughtered to produce the most tender and expensive steaks in the world.