What is Wagyu?
Wagyu beef is a special type of beef from Japan. True Japanese wagyu beef can only be sourced from the country of Japan. This wagyu beef is often remarked upon as the best beef known to the world of gastronomy.
The special name for this beef comes from its defining feature, which is its origins. In the name, the ‘Gyu’ means cow, and the ‘Wa’ refers to Japan.
This is important when referring to wagyu because the way they are raised in the luscious and forest-covered lands of Japan all contribute to the gorgeous textures and tastes cultivated in this cattle breed.
Additionally, this special upbringing and pasteurization result in a nutrient-filled and wonderfully textured fat ratio. When looking at the Japanese wagyu breed of cattle, you can identify them as either black or red, and horned.
Why is Wagyu Graded?
Due to the special care taken to provide a high-quality product across Japan, the Japanese government and industry created a grading system to help consumers understand the quality of their product.
This grading system allows customers to differentiate between the taste levels i.e., flavor and tenderness of the beef, as well as the consistency of flavor through the product.
The wagyu grading system is specific to Japanese wagyu beef, and in particular, helps to secure the best tasting meat. The Japanese Meat Grading Association (JMGA) Beef Carcass Grading Standard was created to locate the cattle which produced the best marbling of the meat.
The introduction of this grading and subsequent raise to only accept a higher grade than 3, encouraged the entire Wagyu beef industry across the world to raise their game. It is also why A5 has become the premium grading level of wagyu beef in the world.
How is Wagyu Graded?
There are two main aspects to this grading system, which are easily split into sections. The letter and the number represent two important but different aspects of the wagyu beef.
As already stated, marbling is very important to the quality of the meat, but how is that rated, and what about the other measurements of a great-tasting beef.
There are a few aspects that need to be taken into account when grading wagyu beef, including the previously mentioned marbling. The color, texture, luster, brightness, and firmness are all extremely important aspects.
Part One of Grading Wagyu: The Letter (Yield)
For Japanese wagyu beef, the yield score is the letter which shows the estimated percentage of yield from any carcass; this is always sampled from between the sixth and seventh rib of the cattle.
As an extremely objective system, this cut allows graders to assess the amount of meat which can be gathered from any particular carcass. The higher the grade, the more meat can be recovered.
This score has very little meaning to the end consumer, but for the farmers, the goal is to reach grade A, as this increases the value which can be made from each carcass.
Bigger yields also mean bigger cuts of meat, and ease of retrieving the meat. A is always preferred over the other two grades, especially for Japanese wagyu beef, as this is needed for A5 grading.
The grading levels are below:
- Grade A: 72% & above (> Average Cutability)
- Grade B: 69% & above (Average Cutability)
- Grade C: Under 69% (< Average Cutability)
Part Two - The Number Grade (Quality)
In opposition to the yield grade, which only has three options, the Beef Marbling Standard (BMS) grading levels run from 1-12 (with 12 being the best!).
This grading relies on the Beef Color Standard and this is where those other factors start to come into play. The standard looks at the texture, in particular, the visual marbling the meat has. Beyond that, the fitness of the meat shows the quality i.e., the finer the meat the higher on the scale it will be. Also examined is the fat quality, color, and luster of the beef.
Marbling is one of the most sought-after traits of the Japanese A5 wagyu beef. Marbling is how the fat is dispersed throughout the meat.
Why is this important? Because beef which has evenly spread out fat simply tastes better. It makes it juicier in every bite, as well as more flavorful. Additionally, this superior marbling means the steak is more tender and easier to eat.
To get the final grading, the BMS levels are placed into grades from 1-5. This is done because the variety of marbling can differ so much from cattle to cattle. In response, any marbling level over 8 is considered the highest level of marbling and meat and is thus awarded the highly-sought grading of 5.
See the breakdown of this grading below:
- Grade 1: BMS 1
- Grade 2: BMS 2
- Grade 3: BMS 3 or 4
- Grade 4: BMS 5 to 7
- Grade 5: BMS 8 to 12
Is A5 the Highest Grade of Wagyu Beef?
Knowing how wagyu beef is graded, we can quickly understand why A5 wagyu beef is the highest grade of beef available on the market. By buying this grade of meat, customers can ensure the cows they are sampling provide the best yields, as well as the best taste and marbling.
This is a great system for consumers to ensure the meat they are purchasing is the best on the market. However, it’s important to note this grading system only refers to the Japanese wagyu beef market.
Any wagyu purchased from other countries is subject to their own graded systems, and should not be held in comparison to the A5 beef category. We advise you to ignore any comparisons and refer to the countries grading categories.
As a further layer of security, all wagyu cattle from Japan are assigned a unique ID number that can be tracked. Be sure to check any A5 wagyu beef ID number to ensure its authenticity before purchasing.
How Much is A5 Wagyu?
The A5 wagyu price varies across the board, however, some industry standards to expect can include an average cost of $250 per lb. One of the best ways to understand the costing variances from Japanese to American wagyu beef is to go back to the start and analyze the cost of the cow itself.
On average, a Japanese wagyu cow costs around $30,000, this compares significantly to the American cow which goes for around $2000.
This massive difference in costs is caused by a few factors. Firstly, the Japanese breeds live on land with less than 100 other cows, compared to the thousands on an American cattle farm. The lack of land to breed more Japanese wagyu cattle also helps bump up the price, as the rarer the breed the harder it is to get.
Another major reason for the price differences is the amazing gastronomic experience received by those who eat the A5 wagyu beef from Japan. The flavor created from the high-grade food and lifestyle they live is hard to replicate in the larger-scale farms in the US and other countries.
Finally, other reasons such as specialized farmers, traceability System, and importing costs add to the cost of A5 wagyu beef.
What Is The Difference Between A5 Wagyu and Kobe Beef?
You may be wondering what makes A5 wagyu beef different from Kobe beef. The answer is it's a matter of specialty.
The Kobe beef must come from the area of Japan known as Tajima-Gyu. This special place is the only location where the Kobe cattle can be raised and slaughtered. All other Kobe beef is fake.
How Do You Cook A5 Wagyu Steak?
There are a few ways to cook this high-grade meat, but the best version is one of the easiest. A simple sear can capture the juiciest parts of the flavor and allows the exquisite marbling to do its job.
Worth every penny when cooked right, here are a few steps to follow to make your meal unforgettable. As a word of warning, we suggest not grilling this type of meat, as much of the flavor will be lost to the flames.
- Step 1: Salt 1 to 3 hours before cooking, it takes more salt than a standard steak.
- Step 2: Pre-heat and throw your preferred skillet in the oven to around 400 degrees.
- Step 3: Put the skillet over the burner on a high setting, make sure to sear the steak on both sides - three minutes on the first side, flip and repeat for two minutes on the other side.
- Step 4: Let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes and slice very thinly.
Where Can I Buy A5 Wagyu?
After reading this overview, you can understand how rare and truly elegant this cut of meat is. As such, true-grade A5 wagyu is very rare to find in the United States.
Many manufacturers will sacrifice the quality of the beef to cut corners, but at Kolikos Caviar and Gourmet, we are dedicated to providing you with the highest grades of A5 wagyu and other luxury products.