Despite having its origins in Japan, authentic wagyu beef has since become a global phenomenon. Wagyu has gained so much popularity worldwide that several hybrid varieties have even been created in other nations. Today, two nations that have put a lot of effort into creating distinctive varieties of Wagyu beef that are particular to each place are the United States and Australia.
Wagyu grading varies a little depending on the nation and the regulating body. Even though they grade somewhat differently, the traits that the organisations look for in this type of beef are primarily the same. Within each system, the grades of Wagyu are taken quite strictly and seriously because excellent quality, appearance, and flavour are demanded of Wagyu steak. In this article, we take a closer look at Japanese wagyu beef and all the information surrounding it.
Currently, Wagyu beef is graded by the Japanese Meat Grading Association (JMGA), much like beef from American cattle is graded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The JMGA grades Wagyu beef according to several factors, including fat colour, meat colour, rib eye form, size of ribeye area, and IMF%, which stands for internal marbling percentage. To guarantee that beef meets the criteria Americans want when purchasing it, the USDA grades it according to its standards.
Wagyu originates from four kinds of domestic cattle: Japanese Black, which makes up 90% of all wagyu beef; Japanese Brown, sometimes known as Japanese Red; Japanese Shorthorn; and the highly uncommon Japanese Polled, for which there are only a few hundred cattle left in existence. These breeds are descended from indigenous Japanese cows mixed with Western cattle at the turn of the 20th century and then selectively developed over several generations to increase their organic unsaturated fat content.
This gives Wagyu beef its renowned marbling, which is rich in beneficial omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and has a sweet flavour rather than a greasy one. Wagyu cattle are raised with careful attention to their habitat and feed in addition to these genetic traits, producing quality steak. Here are the types of wagyu beef that are available today.
One of Japan’s most well-known wagyu beef brands is Ohmi beef or Omi Hime. Omi beef is renowned for marbling with a delicate texture that gives the meat a subtly sweet flavour. Omi beef originates from Shiga Prefecture to the east of Kyoto and is a type of Japanese Black bull that has been raised for a more extended period than Kobe beef.
Kobe beef from Hyogo prefecture is the most well-known brand of Japanese wagyu beef in the world. It is one of the top three wagyu brands sold in Japan. Tajima beef, a subspecies of Japanese Black cattle, is the source of wagyu from Kobe.
A variety of Japanese beef from the Mie prefecture is called Matsusaka beef. It comes from Tajima cows grown in the relatively distant and lush Fukano Valley. According to legend, the cows are fed beer and given massages. Compared to Kobe beef, its appeal is more well-known among Japanese gourmets. With its sweet smell, excellent marbling, and soft texture, the beef is renowned for its exceptional quality and properly cared-for cows.
The Miyazaki prefecture is where this delicate, brightly coloured beef is produced. Only beef with a high inspection score is allowed to use the term “Miyazaki Wagyu” to ensure its superior flavour.
Shichiri is the name of the finest Hida beef. Of the 6000 cattle Gifu breeds annually, only 120 are designated as Shichiri. This beef, one of the most sought-after upscale cuts of meat, might be the most tender you’ve ever cut into. As soon as it reaches your tongue, this meat will melt in your mouth. You will experience the sensation in a rich, distinctive taste that will entice you to return for more.
The Kumamoto Prefecture’s laid-back, unhurried climate is where the Japanese brown cattle used to produce Kumamoto Akaushi are raised. Their diet is rich in high-quality pasture grass and has a quick fattening process, making healthy meat with minimal fat.
The Kuroge Washu, commonly known as Japanese Black, is used to produce the majority of Kagoshima beef. The Kagoshima Wagyu beef’s flavour benefits from the cattle’s access to enough natural sunlight and surroundings. It has well-balanced marbling and is full-bodied before becoming delicate.
Black-haired cattle grown in Saga Prefecture, which has a moderate temperature, clean air, and good water, produce Saga beef. Superb breeding practices are also employed, which adds to the meat’s excellent marbling. Before it can be identified as Saga meat, the beef must meet specific requirements.
Sasanishiki rice stalks and barley are used as food for Sendai beef cattle. The Japan Meat Grading Association assigns an A-5 or B-5 rating to Sendai beef. It denotes that Sendai beef is of the most outstanding calibre or grade.
The cattle are raised in the Yamagata prefecture, which is well-recognised for producing rice. Yamagata Gyu is soft, creamy-flavoured, and finely marbled.
Japanese wagyu beef is prized for its tenderness, marbling, and excellent quality. To ensure consumers are eating quality and healthy wagyu beef, it must adhere to strict industry standards for marbling, smell, colour, brightness, meat hardness and texture, and fat quality. Two scales are used to evaluate the wagyu beef. One scale is used for the quantity of meat produced (which ranges from A-class to C-class), and the other is for the quality of the marbling in the fat (ranging from 1 to 5). Grade A4 or A5 wagyu beef is the best available.
Wagyu beef is graded on a scale from number 1 to 5. Number 1 being the lowest, and number 5 is the highest in the Japanese beef grading system. These aspects, including marbling and colouration, are all included in the quality score, which ranges from 1 to 12. The quality score is used to determine the final grade, which runs from 1 to 5:
Below is a table that showcases the rating system and beef grading guide across Japan, Australia and USA.
Wagyu Grades for beef carcasses range from the sixth to the seventh rib. Yield and Grade, two incredibly distinct criteria, form the basis of grading. Yield is defined as the proportion of meat to the actual carcass weight. Beef Color Standard (BCS), Beef Fat Standard (BFS), Firmness & Texture, and Overall Beef Marbling Score (BMS) are used to determine the grade. Beef must be assessed as Grade A for yield and Grade 5 for BMS, BFS, BCS, firmness, and texture in order to be classified as A5 Japanese Wagyu.
As a result of having the highest quality score and highest Wagyu rating, Wagyu meat Grade 12 would be considered the pinnacle of the Wagyu beef spectrum. Some cuts of beef may be labelled as Japanese Wagyu A5. This is the highest grade of Wagyu beef that can be obtained, and it is typically only given to cattle who have been raised with the utmost care and the most incredible feed, including corn and grain.
A quality grade is always a number; however, the “A” mainly refers to the yield grade, which is distinct. The yield grade indicates the Wagyu cut’s cutability, with the A status denoting a higher yield of high-quality meat. Cuts with a yield of 72% or more receive grade A, whilst cuts with lower yields receive grades B and C.
Japanese Wagyu beef is produced from cattle bred with an emphasis on quality rather than quantity. Without undergoing the quality grading system supported by the Japanese government, beef cannot be referred to as Wagyu.
You can’t help but be intrigued to taste the end product of such well-bred cattle, given their concentrated diet and feed and their upbringing in many prefectures throughout Japan’s rich environment. Wagyu comes in various varieties that can be enjoyed and explored, and there is a growing library of dishes to go with it.
Each bite is genuinely remarkable and something to cherish, the ideal centrepiece for any meal. The government does not take any chances to qualify this premium beef, which is the most treasured in Japan.