Why Wagyu Gets High (Marbling) Scores

Have you ever seen a Wagyu steak in person? They’re quite distinctive, light pink and full of white flecks. What you may not realize is that those little white flecks are what sets Wagyu beef apart from other types of beef. It’s the marbling, naturally produced by Wagyu cattle, due in part to their genetics and in part to the way they’re raised. Wagyu ranchers take great pride in the way they raise the cattle, in a low-stress environment, using top-notch husbandry techniques.

What does this mean? We’ll explain. Marbling is intramuscular fat, which shows as white streaks running through a piece of meat. Wagyu cattle are genetically predisposed to superior marbling, and the fat produced by Wagyu is largely healthy fat. Therefore, when you eat Wagyu beef, you get health benefits along with the buttery, melt-in-your-mouth texture of the meat, and it’s all due to superior marbling.

This marbling is rated using a marbling score. In Japan, beef graders undergo three years of training before they’re qualified to score marbling. In addition, there are high-tech, objective grading cameras used to determine the marbling quality. The system they use is the Beef Marbling Standards (BMS), and it goes from BMS1 all the way to BMS12. The top marbling scores are found in Japan: no one outside of Japan can achieve a score higher than BMS9.

Why does Japan have the advantage? Wagyu cattle are considered a national treasure in Japan, and since the 1970s, it’s been illegal to export Wagyu to other countries. So, while there are fullblood Wagyu in other places, including the United States, they’re not quite at the level of the Japanese Wagyu because of differences in environment and production methods.

Marbling is only one factor that the Japanese use to determine the quality of Wagyu. Meat color and brightness is also judged, along with firmness and texture. Finally, the color, luster, and quality of the fat is assessed. All of these things determine the meat’s yield score. The best grade of Wagyu beef is A5, and to earn that ranking, a cut of meat must have a yield of at least 72 percent, and the BMS must be between 8 and 12. For reference as to what a BMS between 8 and 12 entails, note that USDA prime typically has a BMS of 4 to 5. So, when you purchase American Wagyu, you know that you’re getting a steak that’s the best of the best.

For top-quality American Wagyu Beef, you can trust Triple T Ranch. Located in south Alabama, our small, family-owned-and-operated ranch is a place where practicing proven husbandry techniques ensures the health and prosperity of the herd. Our cattle are well cared-for and registered through the American Wagyu association. Call (251)333-2800 or contact us through our website for more information.