What is A5 Wagyu Beef?

slices of raw a5 wagyu beef on a cutting board
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With A5 Wagyu beef, you are getting the best cut of meat from Wagyu cattle. It is also an expensive choice. Here is what you should know about A5 Wagyu.

Before purchasing Wagyu beef, you may want to know what you are buying. To help you determine the quality of the meat, it comes with a rating. A5 is the highest rating.


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What Is Wagyu Beef?

Wagyu translates to “Japanese Cow.” However, the word is mostly used to market premium beef that comes from select cattle breeds. Wagyu breeds have a genetic predisposition to develop intramuscular fat that creates unique marbling.

While the distinct marbling pattern helps give Wagyu beef its special flavor, the meat also tends to have a soft, velvety texture.

Most of the Wagyu beef sold in Japan comes from the Japanese Black breed. It is the only Wagyu breed that can receive the top ratings for meat in Japan.

In the United States, Wagyu beef mostly comes from domestically raised offspring of Japanese cattle imported to the country. The Wagyu breeds are typically crossbred with Aberdeen Angus Cattle and marketed as “American Style Kobe Beef” or “Kobe-style Beef.” It tends to have a darker color, thicker texture, and less marbling.

Buying Japanese Wagyu beef does not guarantee the quality of the meat, as most of the beef produced in Japan comes from Wagyu cattle. About 90% of all cattle raised for beef in Japan are strains of Japanese Black, one of several Wagyu breeds.

To ensure that you get the highest quality Wagyu, you need to pay attention to the Japanese meat grading system.

What Is an A5 Rating?

An A5 rating is the top rating that a cut of beef can receive. Meat with an A5 rating has superior color, texture, firmness, and quality fat.

A5 Wagyu beef is widely considered the best beef available on the planet. Compared to meat with lower ratings, an A5 cut has a juicy, rich texture. Instead of tasting greasy, the fat almost melts on your tongue.

Compared to other meats, Wagyu has more intermuscular fat running through the steak. If you look at a cut of Japanese Wagyu striploin ends, you can see the difference. Wagyu beef tends to have the highest beef marbling content, which adds to its delicious flavor and soft texture.

A5 Wagyu Strip Steak marbling

What Makes a Cut of Wagyu an A5 Rating?

To achieve an A5 rating, the cut of beef must meet strict grading requirements. The Japanese Meat Grading Association (JMGA) oversees meat gradings for Japanese cattle.

The cattle also need to come from Japan. Luckily, Japanese beef from Miyazaki and other areas are exported to countries throughout the world.

The rating is based on yield and meat quality. To have an A5 rating, the Wagyu beef must have an A yield score and a meat quality rating of 5.

To determine the yield score, the JMGA takes four measurements of the carcass. If the carcass contains a large percentage of fat, it receives a lower score.

The JMGA has three grades based on yield score:

  • A – Yield of 72% or higher
  • B – Yield of 69% to under 72%
  • C – Yield below 69%

A5 Wagyu has a yield of 72% or higher, with an average yield of 74%. The “5” in the A5 rating comes from the meat quality score, which rates four specific characteristics:

  • Beef marbling
  • Color and brightness of meat
  • Firmness and texture of meat
  • Color, luster, and quality of fat

These characteristics are rated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 as the highest rating. The meat quality score is taken from the lowest rating.

For example, if a cut of beef receives a score of 5 for marbling, meat color, and firmness, but a 4 for the quality of fat, it receives an overall meat quality score of 4.

Beef Marbling

Beef marbling is the marble pattern in the meat created by lines and flecks of fat. The meat is given a Beef Marbling Score (BMS) from 1 to 12 based on the marbling. A5 Wagyu needs a BMS of 8 or higher to receive a grade of 5 in this category.

The marbling is distinct on Wagyu beef. Compare Japanese Wagyu New York strip steak to Angus strip steak and the difference stands out dramatically.

Color and Brightness of Meat

Along with marbling, the meat needs to have a bright color. The Beef Color Standard (BCS) ranges from 1 to 7. When rating the meat, the color and the brightness are considered. A5 Wagyu has a BCS between 3 and 5 and very bright compared to other meats.

Firmness and Texture of Meat

The texture of the meat is rated from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest score. A5 Wagyu has a very fine texture while the lowest scoring meat is coarse. For example, A5 Japanese Wagyu Ribeye Steaks are likely to be much softer compared to your typical supermarket ribeye.

Color, Luster, and Quality of Fat

Fat is the final factor in meat ratings. It is graded based on the color, luster, and overall quality determined by the Beef Fat Standard (BFS).

If the meat achieves a 5 rating in each of these areas and receives an A grade for yield, it gets an A5 rating. It also gets a higher price tag. A 5-ounce Japanese Wagyu Petite Striploin Steak is an affordable way to try authentic Japanese A5 Wagyu.

To ensure that you are getting authentic Wagyu, look for the Wagyu mark. It appears on the packaging for 100% Wagyu meats imported from Japan.

Conclusion – A5 Wagyu Has the Highest Rating

A5 Wagyu beef is a premium choice, which is reflected in its price. It is one of the most expensive cuts of beef available. However, Wagyu beef has a distinct flavor that you cannot find in lower quality cuts of meat.

When Wagyu beef receives an A5 rating, you know that you are getting the best meat available. It has the highest yield and quality characteristics, such as marbling and a very fine texture.

If you want the juiciest, brightest beef with an unforgettable flavor, stock your fridge or freezer with A5 Wagyu beef.

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