What’s A5 Wagyu, and How Is It Graded?
Grading systems in meat are used to differentiate premium products from other low-end cuts. Each country has its meat grading standards. However, the most reliable standard in any grading measurement of meat is marbling. The marbling pattern of the meat determines the degree of distribution of the muscle-fat ratio. The best taste and quality are found in cuts with complex and dense marbling properties. BMS or Beef Marbling Standard is an international standard that ranks meat cuts from 1 to 12.
A cut graded 12 has the highest marbling standards, and a cut graded 1 has almost no marbling. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grades meat based on quality grades and the yield grades.
The four quality grades used to evaluate USDA meat are:
- Prime beef grade.
- Choice beef grade.
- Select beef grade.
- Standard beef grade.
Generally speaking, steak cuts will only be in the first two grades.
Meat’s quality is graded based on these four indicators:
Prime is the highest grade in the United States. Only 2% of the meat market qualifies as USDA Prime, and almost all of it is supplied to hotels and restaurants. Wagyu beef is considered a USDA Prime cut. Choice beef has the best quality-price ratio. Select beef has less marbling than other cuts. When cooked improperly, cuts difficult to chew.
A5 Wagyu beef
Wagyu (“Wa” meaning “Japanese” and “gyu” meaning “cattle”) beef has recently swept across the niche market of luxury foods in Japan. Wagyu typically refers to “Japanese Black,” which is one of four Japanese cattle breeds. About 97% of the cattle bred in Japan are Japanese Black.
Japanese A5 wagyu is one of the top-rated beef meats globally, and the A5 grade is the highest Japanese grade for beef. The combination of a high-quality product with the utmost rank in the meat gives us the most luxurious beef in the world: Japanese A5 wagyu.
The Japanese grading system was created by JMGA (Japan Meat Grading Association). This Japanese Association has established one of the most accurate and rigid grading systems for meat globally. The grading of Japanese cattle consists of two parts: The yield grade (represented by letters) and the quality grade (represented by numbers).
There are 15 levels from A5 (the highest grade) to C1 (the lowest grade).
- A is the highest variety grade and represents beef that has pure Japanese descent.
- B represents varieties of mixed Japanese descent.
- C is for breeds from other countries, such as Angus and Holstein.
The meat’s quality is determined based on these four grading conditions:
- The marbling: beef marbling standard (BMS)
- The color: beef color standard (BCS)
- The fat: beef fat standard (BFS)
- The texture of the meat
The classification of Japanese beef is very strict. If one of the conditions doesn’t meet the standard score, the rate will automatically drop. For meat to be rated A-level, it should be the descendent of one of these native Japanese strains: The Japanese Black, the Japanese Polled, the Japanese Brown and, the Japanese Shorthorn.
Wagyu cattle are bred from native Japanese breeds, which have evolved by adapting to Japan’s unique climate and environment. Among these Japanese breeds, Kobe beef, Matsusaka beef, and Omi beef are the most famous ones. Given the increasing popularity of Wagyu meat worldwide, the export of this meat has increased by 41.6% from 2013 to 2014. However, their production is limited, and therefore so are exports.
Since Wagyu DNA and live animals are permanently banned for export from Japan, their meat is rare. However, you can order A5 wagyu beef cuts, which will be delivered with a Certificate of Authenticity from the breed’s native country.
Japanese A5 wagyu is difficult and expensive to raise, so the price of this top-quality meat is exceptionally high. With the transportation fees, the costs can reach more than $200 per pound.
This list represents some of the top A5 wagyu beef providers in the U.S.
- The Wagyu Shop: A 10 oz Ribeye A5 wagyu steak costs 210$.
- Holy Grail Steak: A 13-15 oz Ribeye A5 wagyu steak costs 350$.
- Grand Western Steaks: A 12-16 oz Ribeye A5 wagyu steak costs 153$.
Is Japanese A5 wagyu Worth the Hype?
Eating A5 wagyu beef is an exceptional culinary experience that deserves the expensive price-tag. This luxurious product fulfills both taste and quality requirements. The Japanese A5 wagyu has a sweet buttery texture and a beefy flavor. It tastes smooth and tender because of its highly-marbled composition.
After pan-frying A5 wagyu beef, the evenly distributed marble releases juices that will overflow in your mouth with every bite you take. The fragrant juices released from the Japanese A5 wagyu have a unique milk flavor unparalleled in taste.
Indeed, the most noticeable characteristic of A5 wagyu beef is its intense marbling. The high intramuscular fat content improves the texture, juiciness, and thereby the overall palatability. In addition, the composition of the fat in A5 Wagyu beef is considerably different from that in other breeds.
From a health-conscious perspective, A5 wagyu beef has a high concentration of “healthy” monounsaturated fatty acids, such as oleic acid. Healthy fats are associated with reduced cancer risk, reduced cardiovascular disease risk, and better cholesterol levels. Because of their grass-fed diet, Japanese A5 wagyu has a healthy amount of fats compared
American Wagyu Beef
The United States is the largest beef-producing country. The American meat-eating culture has prompted meat producers to create high-quality strain by crossing the Japanese strain with the local Angus breed, creating a hybrid American Wagyu strain.
American Black Wagyu is graded according to the quality of the marbling and the age of the beef:
- Gold Label: A marbling score of no less than nine on the lower range and up to 9+.
- Black Label: A marbling score of 5 to 8.
- Silver Label: A marbling score of 3 and 4.
The American Wagyu breed is often fed a diet of corn for up to 500 days to produce high-quality meat. The local breed has the delicate marbling pattern found in the Japanese breed and the Angus strain’s unique beefy aroma. It became, in recent years, a key ingredient in many local Michelin restaurants in the United States.