A1 Wagyu to A5, How Beef is Graded? Learn what is Wagyu beef.
What is A1 Wagyu beef?
A1 Wagyu is a Japanese term that means Japanese Cattle (“Wa” translates to Japanese, and “Gyu” translates to cow). Japanese Wagyu is considered a national treasure in its home country.
Currently, there are four known Japanese strains in the world: The Japanese Black, the Japanese Polled, the Japanese Brown and, the Japanese Shorthorn.
Each variety of Japanese beef has intrinsic qualities that make it one of the most expensive and sought-after beef meat.
The Japanese Black Wagyu accounts for 90% of Japanese beef. We can find other brands under the Japanese Black like Matsusaka beef and Omi beef and the famous Kobe beef. The Wagyu strain is made by crossing native Japanese cattle with other foreign breeds.
Nowadays, Wagyu meat designates cattle produced in Japan and cattle raised in other countries such as the U.S. and Australia.
Japanese cattle first appeared in the U.S. in 1976. Their exportation was banned in 1997 by the Japanese government. In 2003, the export and import of Japanese beef were halted due to the mad cow disease spread (BSE). These earlier events have hindered the production of Wagyu beef.
Luckily, their production has been thriving in the past decade.
Currently, the American Wagyu Association estimates fewer than 5.000 certified Fullblood Japanese cattle in the U.S. and 30.000 adulterated bloodline- Crossbred known as F2- Wagyu. The latter is the most prevalent type of Japanese cattle found in U.S. markets.
Japanese cattle are devoted primarily to the production of high-quality meat. This shows in the process of fattening that Wagyu beef undertakes to produce their reputable meat.
Japanese cattle are characterized by their unique ability to deposit a large amount of intramuscular fat during the fattening period. This ability is encouraged in beef carcasses as it enhances the tenderness of the meat.
Intramuscular fat is reported to have low cooking losses, which means that Wagyu beef’s marbling won’t melt and drip out in cooking, compared to other beef strains where fat would be lost during this process.
Characteristics of Wagyu Beef
The exquisite intramuscular fat marbling of Japanese Black cattle is due to their distinct DNA makeup. Wagyu cattle’s dedicated feeding regimen boosts this world-renowned fat marbling, known as Sashi. Furthermore, inosinic acid and intrinsically sweat amino acids are found in Wagyu beef red meat. These acids, combined with the Sashi marbling, could provide complex delicious taste that no other beef can match.
Another important aspect of Wagyu flavor is the appealing aroma that is experienced when preparing food it. This aroma is strongest after the beef has been heated to 80°C. Aside from its glossy mouthfeel and rich flavor, this distinct “Wagyu aroma” is another main cause why Wagyu is highly sought after around the world.
Oleic Acid Boosts Wagyu’s Health Benefits
Wagyu has health benefits in addition to being delicious! Wagyu contains a high amount of oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid. Oleic acid, a major component of olive oil, helps to regulate LDL cholesterol (‘bad cholesterol’) when gobbled up in adequate amounts. Scientific studies indicate that it prevents arteriosclerosis, or artery hardening.
Food Safety Management at the Beef Processing Stage.
As the global food distribution system becomes more complex, international laws such as ISO, FSSC (Food Safety System Certification), and SQF (Safe Quality Food) are being rigorously implemented to ensure hazard mitigation. These international rules are strictly followed by Japanese Wagyu processing plants. In addition, they obtain HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) credential to bring you totally safe Wagyu beef.
Japanese Wagyu beef A1 – A5 wagyu beeg grades
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. Japanese A5 Wagyu Beef has A5 grade.
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.
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 wagyuis 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 orderA5 wagyu beefcuts, which will be delivered with a Certificate of Authenticity from the breed’s native country.
Japanese A5 wagyuis 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 $200 per pound.
This list represents some of the topA5 wagyu beefproviders in the U.S.
- The Wagyu Shop: A 10 oz RibeyeA5 wagyu steakcosts 210$.
- Holy Grail Steak: A 13-15 oz RibeyeA5 wagyu steakcosts 350$.
- Grand Western Steaks: A 12-16 oz RibeyeA5 wagyu steakcosts 153$.
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.
How Wagyu Beef Is Graded?
Yield, Marbling, Color, Texture, Firmness, and Lustre are the factors used to grade Wagyu. Wagyu is graded in two categories: yield level and meat quality marks.
1. The final meat ratio is used to determine yield grade. The carcass is assigned one of three grades:
- A for being above average
- B is for average.
- C stands for “below average.”
2. Meat quality grade is appraise according to (1) marbling (2) meat brightness and color (3) texture and firmness (4) quality and luster of fat.
All four components of meat quality are rated from 1 to 5, of 5 being the best.
Wagyu is given the final certificate of registration that integrates yield grade and meat quality grade, with A5 certified Wagyu being the highest possible rank. If any four dimensions of meat quality receive a grade of less than 5, the entire rank falls into that level.
Beef Marbling Standard (BMS) 1-12
- Quality 1 = BMS 1 (average)
- Quality 2 = BMS 2 (good)
- Quality 3 = BMS 3-4 (very good)
- Quality 4 = BMS 5-7 (excellent)
- Quality 5 = BMS 8-12 (exceptional)
The fabled wagyu taste
Appearance; In homage to the marble, metamorphic rock intricate patterns of intramuscular fat layer in between red meat of Japanese Wagyu beef are termed to as “marbling.”
Wagyu’s lustrous appearance contributes significantly to its renowned flavor. Japanese Wagyu farms work tirelessly to achieve aesthetic quality in beef and go to great lengths to produce artistic pieces of art of beef marbling.
Aroma: When Wagyu is exposed to heat to 80°C, it emits a distinct Wagyu aroma that is not observed in other beef. This aroma is unique to purebred Japanese Wagyu and is derived from five different lactones, which are oligomers of hydroxycarboxylic acids that are rich in sweet, umami-laden aromas. The world-renowned delectability of Wagyu beef extends beyond its own high price tag; it is supported by empirical evidence.
Flavor: Oleic acid, which is abundant in Wagyu beef, has a really low melting point (20°C), allowing the meat to melt in your mouth. Furthermore, the red meat of Wagyu beef contains intrinsically sweet amino acids like inosinic acid and glutamic acid, which are the fundamental basis of umami and richness. The sublime and complex deliciousness of Wagyu beef is produced by the combination of oleic acid and sweet amino acids.
Umami: [umami] (from Japanese: “pleasant Savoury taste”) has already been described as brothy or meaty. Foods high in the amino acid glutamate, such as Parmesan cheese, seaweed, miso, and mushrooms, have a strong umami flavor.
Is Japanese A5 wagyu Worth the Hype?
EatingA5 wagyu beefis an exceptional culinary experience that deserves the expensive price-tag. This luxurious product fulfills both taste and quality requirements. TheJapanese A5 wagyuhas a sweet buttery texture and a beefy flavor. It tastes smooth and tender because of its highly-marbled composition.
After pan-fryingA5 wagyu beef, the evenly distributed marble releases juices that will overflow in your mouth with every bite you take. The fragrant juices released from theJapanese A5 wagyuhave a unique milk flavor unparalleled in taste.
Indeed, the most noticeable characteristic ofA5 wagyu beefis its intense marbling. The high intramuscular fat content improves the texture, juiciness, and thereby the overall palatability. In addition, the composition of the fat inA5 Wagyu beefis considerably different from that in other breeds.
From a health-conscious perspective,A5 wagyu beefhas 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 wagyuhas a healthy amount of fats compared
Why is Wagyu Expensive?
The Japanese black beef is considered to be on the expensive side of the beef price chart. But why is Wagyu beef expensive? This is mainly due to their expensive diet.
Indeed, calves are fed a high-concentrate feed from 11 months to 30 months of age to produce intramuscular fat. In the finishing period of their fattening, they are fed concentrates to make up for any nutrient supply deficit.
Japanese Wagyu are fed twice or three times daily from 11 months until slaughter at 28 to 30 months of age.
The total feed consumption during the fattening period varies between 4.000 to 5.000 kg per head. Moreover, 90% of the concentrate used for their fattening diets is imported. All of the mentioned factors contribute to the expensive Japanese Black beef prices totaling an average cost for production of 10.045 $ per carcass.
The total production price for Japanese Wagyu beef accounts for more than 90% of the sale price. But, that is not the only variable that affects the price of this expensive breed.
The elaborate breeding methods involve the mass-production of Japanese beef as they get slaughtered at a young age, compared to other breeds of beef- the average fattening period for Holstein cattle is 20 months- to preserve the reputation of their quality meat.
These are the estimated prices of Wagyu meat for different cuts from different certified providers.
What’s so Special About Wagyu?
Japanese beef has the highest fat levels in beef carcasses, with more than 40% fat than other breeds. But not just any fat.
Wagyu meat contains nine essential amino acids that play a crucial role in human biological regulation for disease prevention. Their meat is genetically predisposed to produce higher concentrations of monounsaturated fatty acids (the healthy type of fat).
The healthy fatty acids are higher in Japanese cattle leading to a lower melting point for the fat. This, in turn, contributes to the softness of the meat texture and the improved beefy flavor. It also affects the concentration of bad cholesterol lipoproteins.
As more research is being conducted on this beef, one thing to be sure about is that this breed’s genetic predispositions are unique to Japanese cattle.
How to Cook Wagyu Meat?
There is no general rule of thumb for the best cooking method for Wagyu meat. However, most cooks recommend the “less is better” rule for this special Japanese meat.
Use a sharp knife or a slicer to cut the Japanese meat in one single movement. For better cutting results, chill the piece of meat in the fridge.
Large cuts of Wagyu meat, like ribeye steaks, usually have a thick layer of marbling. This why it is advisable to cut them into thin slices. ¼-inch-thick ribeye strips should be grilled for about 1½ minutes per side and cooked to medium-rare.
Leaner cuts, such as short ribs, flap steaks, and flank steaks, are cut thicker. To cook a 1-inch-thick flank steak, grill the steak for 8 minutes for Medium-rare.
If you’re not a fan of fat caps, you can trim it off before grilling. The intramuscular fat is more than enough to create that delicious brown sear.
How to Handle Wagyu Beef Safely?
Raw Wagyu Beef: Choose beef just before you check out over the register. Place raw beef packs in disposable plastic bags, if possible, to prevent leakage that could contaminate cooked meat or produce. Beef, a perishable product, is kept in the fridge during distribution to prevent bacteria growth.
Take the beef home right away and refrigerate it at 40 °F (4.4 °C); use within 3 to 5 days for hamburger meat and variety meats such as liver, kidneys, tripe, sweetbreads, or tongue, or freeze at 0 °F (-17.8 °C). It will be safe indefinite period if kept frozen constantly. Wagyu can be frozen in its original packaging or repackaged safely. To prevent “freezer burn,” which seems to as grayish-brown fleshy spots on porous store plastic, wrap it in freezer paper, aluminum foil, or bags for long-term freezing or freezer-weight plastic wrap and also is caused by air starting to reach the food’s surface. Cut refrigerated burn portions away either before or after cooking the beef. For quality reasons, heavily freezer-burned foods may have to be discarded. Use roasts and steaks within 9-12 months for the best quality.
For completely cooked, take-out beef dishes such as barbecued ribs, Chinese food, or fast-food hamburgers, be sure they are hot at pickup. If the ambient temperature is above 90 °F (32.2 °C), use cooked beef within 2 hours to 1 hour, or refrigerate it in shallow, covered containers at 40 °F (4.4 °C). Eat within 3 to 4 days, either cold or hot and steaming at 165 °F (73.9 °C). It is secure to freeze pre-made beef dishes. It within 4 months for the best quality.
Regulation of the U.S. Food Processing Sector for Wagyu Beef
The food processing industry in the United States is heavily regulated by state and federal agencies. The regulatory oversight is dominated by federal agencies: USDA FSIS for meat and poultry processing businesses, and FDA for all other food processing businesses. State agencies also play an significant part in overseeing food production businesses within their respective areas, but they work in tandem with federal agencies.