How Japanese beef is graded – Exclusive Demonstration with A5 Grade Japanese Black Wagyu in Japan
Have you seen “A5” written on the wagyu label in the supermarket or at a restaurant in Japan, and wondered exactly how the A5 grade is determined?
This video will explain this for you!
This is an exclusive video inside a Japanese meat market, with one of the top beef experts in Japan.
How Japanese Beef is Graded
Japanese beef is graded officially by the Japan Meat Grading Association.
There are 2 key grades that contribute to the final beef grade: 1) Yield and 2) Quality.
Yield is evaluated by the following 4 traits:
Subcutaneous fat thickness
Rib fat thickness
These 4 traits combine to calculate the yield, which gives the Yield Grade A, B, C.
The higher proportion of meat and the lower proportion of fat gives a higher yield.
Quality is evaluated by the following 4 traits:
Texture and firmness
These 4 traits combine to give the Quality grade, which is a number from 1 to 5 (5 being the highest quality grade).
The higher degree of finely textured marbling, cherry red meat color, creamy white fat, and finely textured/firm meat results in a higher Quality grade.
Japanese beef grading table – A5 is the highest grade, and C1 is the lowest grade
If you see “A5 graded Japanese black wagyu beef” for sale on your next trip to Mitsukoshi Ginza, you will now know why it is the highest grade.
A5 has the highest combination of Yield (A) and Quality (5) and perfect for a special dinner of Shabu Shabu, Sukiyaki, or an amazing steak.
The highest grade of Japanese beef – A5 (Japanese black wagyu). Delicious as Shabu Shabu, Sukiyaki, or a super amazing steak.
This is how the Japan Meat Grading Association (JMGA) measure rib-eye area that contributes to the yield grade. A larger rib-eye areas results in a higher yield. The rib-eye is the highest valued beef cut, so the bigger the better!
Measuring rib thickness. This contributes to the yield score (the thicker the rib the better)
Measuring the subcutaneous fat thickness. Less fat is better. Therefore, smaller subcutaneous fat thickness results in a better yield.
The JMGA (Japan Meat Grading Association) uses these marbling images as a guide for judging the marbling score. A large amount of finely textured marbling throughout the rib-eye results in a higher marbling score (and therefore a higher quality grade).
Beef color and brightness contributes to the Quality Grade. A bright cherry-red color is preferable (dark meat color is down-graded).
A creamy white fat color is preferable and contributes to the Quality grade. If the fat is yellow (or too white and hard), it is down-graded.
This is an example of an A4 grade. This is a Japanese F1, which is holstein dairy x Japanese Black wagyu crossbred. Often F1 has a high yield (A), but slightly less marbling than full bred Japanese Black wagyu which gives it a #4 Quality Grade. It is still delicious and highly valued though, and is great for steaks and yakiniku.
Here is an example of a lower grade B2 Japanese dairy beef. You can see the B2 stamp on the top. There are many dairy farms in Japan and if the calf is a male, then it is fattened for beef production. If the male calf is full-bred holstein (not crossbred with Japanese black wagyu), then it often has lower yield and marbling score and therefore is graded at B2.
Here is a close-up shot of the B2 grade. You can see the lower amount of marbling compared to the A5 beef, and slightly darker meat color. It is still delicious as a leaner beef and great for BBQ steaks, roast beef and casseroles.
Why did I write this post for Tokyo Urban Kitchen?
I have a PhD in Agricultural Science (Meat Science) from Japan and I am one of the founders of the Japan Intercollegiate Meat Judging Competition.
So I am very passionate about Japanese agriculture!
My goal is to bring to you all the wonderful and amazing fresh food from Japan, and explain not only how it is made, but also how you can order it and have it delivered direct to your door in Tokyo.
**A special thanks to my colleagues and friends at the Japan Meat Market for their cooperation with the filming of this video.