Japanese Wagyu A5 vs. A4: All About the Beef Grading System

Japanese Wagyu A5 vs. A4: All About the Beef Grading System

You’ve probably heard that Japanese Wagyu is the most exquisite beef in the world—but have you ever wondered how the quality of the meat is measured and maintained? What exactly is A5 Wagyu Beef, and how does it differ from A4 Wagyu Beef?

To ensure fair trading and protect authenticity, Japanese Wagyu Beef is graded by the Japanese Meat Grading Association (JMGA) based on the yield and quality grade of the meat. Knowing the ins and outs of the beef grading system—what the different letters and numbers mean, how beef is graded, and which criteria are considered—is essential for the true Japanese Wagyu connoisseur.

Here’s everything you need to know about grading Japanese Wagyu Beef:

How Japanese Wagyu Beef Grading Works

Because Japanese Wagyu steak is the most premium, top-quality beef in the world, it’s expected to consistently be of exceptional quality, flavor, and appearance. That’s why grades of Wagyu Beef are taken very seriously. Wagyu carcasses are graded between the sixth and seventh rib, with specific letters and numbers used for classification: 

Japanese Wagyu Grading Chart

Behind the Letters

The letters you see in reference to Japanese Wagyu Beef grade the yield, or the ratio of meat to total carcass weight. Wagyu is given a letter grade of A-C, with A providing the highest yield. The yield is typically measured using percentages, with A being 72% or higher, B being 69-72%, and C falling below 69%.

Behind the Numbers

The numbers you see in reference to Japanese Wagyu Beef grade the overall quality of the meat. Beef is rated on a scale of 1-5 based on four criteria: fat marbling, color and brightness, firmness and texture, and the color and brightness of the fat. Each of these areas has a scale of its own, including the Beef Marbling Score (BMS), Beef Color Standard (BCS), Beef Fat Standard (BFS), intramuscular fat (IMF %) and firmness and texture of the meat.

The higher the number, the better the quality of the meat, meaning grade 5 is the highest grade of Wagyu Beef. Here’s the quality score breakdown for Wagyu: 

  1. Poor (Quality score of 1)
  2. Below Average (Quality score of 2)
  3. Average (Quality score of 3 or 4)
  4. Good (Quality score of 5-7)
  5. Excellent (Quality score of 8-12)

After taking each of these criteria into consideration, the lowest grade is the final score allocated to the meat. In other words, if the beef marbling and fat receive a 5, but the color receives a 4, then the meat will be graded a 4 in terms of quality. 

How Wagyu Beef is Graded Around the World

Wondering about American and Australian Wagyu Beef? While they aren’t as renowned or remarkable as Japanese Wagyu, both American and Australian Wagyu are also graded to preserve quality. Much like the Japanese Meat Grading Association is responsible for grading Japanese Wagyu, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees and grades beef in the United States to ensure it meets American standards. 

The USDA grading system classifies Wagyu beef in three categories: Select, Choice, and Prime. These categories factor in coloring, marbling, and more, similarly to the JMGA standards. There is also an Australian scale for measuring Wagyu quality, which is very similar to the system followed by the JMGA.

Choosing Top-Quality Japanese Wagyu Steak

It may seem like Japanese A4 and A5 Wagyu Beef is far out of reach in the U.S.—but that actually couldn’t be further from the truth. WAGYUMAN is the largest U.S. importer of Japanese Wagyu Beef, available for delivery right to your doorstep! Our wide array of premium Japanese Wagyu steak cuts range from ribeye and striploin full of flavor, to tender filet mignon and roast beef like you’ve never had it before.

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