School lunches aren’t exactly known for their quality or creativity. If you were lucky, the best you could look forward to was pizza day, when the lunch lady would slap a slice of reheated pizza on your tray. In Japan’s Hyōgo Prefecture, kids are treated to a slightly more upscale experience.
Around 1,250 public elementary schools in the prefecture serve Kobe (or wagyu) beef to students. The city of Kobe is known for its high-quality cattle, and since it’s located in the Hyōgo Prefecture schools can actually take advantage of the precious local meat. In October schools started serving Kobe beef sukiyaki and Kobe beef stew because decreased restaurant operations have resulted in an excess of prime meat. It might be one of the only silver linings of the pandemic for Japanese students, and it will continue until early 2021.
Last spring, when the pandemic began, the Japanese government announced that it would pay for the prefectures’ costs of buying wagyu and seafood to help suppliers struggling to make ends meet. A spokesperson from the Hyogo Prefecture Meat Industry Co-operative Association said, “Some stores had no customers to sell meat to. They had so much in their inventories that they could not store it all in their fridges. We appreciate the stable consumption.”
And kids certainly appreciate it too. According to Food & Wine, one 12-year-old said, “This is the best meat I’ve ever eaten. Without a doubt. I’m gonna brag about it to my parents.”