Guuuu's Guide to Beef Grading Standards in Japan and Australia
You’ve found the perfect recipe to execute for your next dinner gathering - delicious, melt-in-your-mouth beef steak. At the same time, you’ve decided to indulge yourself and your guests in the best quality of Japanese Wagyu beef available. Here comes the big question: How do you determine the quality of your beef? Fret not, for Guuuu is here to provide you with the answers.
The three predominant beef grading systems that exist currently are from the United States, Japan and Australia. In this two part article, we will be focusing on the Japanese and Australian grading systems. For this first article, we will share more about the two grading systems.
The Japanese Grading Standard
First off, let us begin with the Japanese Grading Standard - the most detailed of all. The grading of Wagyu beef is managed by the JMGA (Japanese Meat Grading Association) Beef Carcass Grading Standard.
The JMGA gives a score for Wagyu beef based on its fat colour, meat colour, ribeye shape, size of ribeye area, and intramuscular fat percentage, which refers to its level of marbling.
When it comes to measuring standards of beef grading, the Japan standard consists of Yield Grade and Quality Grade, and A5 is the highest grade given only to the finest beef. The “A” of “A5” refers to the yield grade, while “5” shows the quality grade. The range of grading goes from C (lowest) to A (highest) for the yield grade and 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest) for the quality grade.
Overview of the Japanese Grading Standard
In short, the yield grade refers to the cutability (the proportion of lean salable meat yielded by a carcass) of the Wagyu cut, with a higher yield of quality meat resulting in the A grade. Grade A is given to cuts with a 72% or higher percentage yield, whereas B and C grades are for lower percentages. Thus, a yield rate of A represents the highest cutability of the Wagyu cut.
Overview of Japan's Yield Grading
In determining the quality grade, the following 4 factors are evaluated:
All of the factors above are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest and 5 the highest. The lowest score among the four factors is then adopted as the final quality grade. Hence, even if 3 factors were given a grade 5 and marbling was given a grade 4, the quality of the beef would be classified as an overall grade 4. This means your A5 Wagyu beef ranks a 5 across all factors - promising you the highest quality meat in every bite!
The Australian Grading Standard
Next, let us dive into the Australian Grading Standard. The newest Australian beef grading system is known as Meat Standards Australia (MSA) and is regulated by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA).
The MSA score ranges from a scale of 100 (no intramuscular fat or marbling) to 1190 (extensive amounts of intramuscular fat or marbling) with increments of 10. Developed based on almost 1.2 million consumer taste tests across 11 countries, the Australian Grading System takes into account all factors that affect eating quality, thus measuring a comprehensive number of attributes that include meat and fat colour, marbling, carcass weight and fat depth.
You may have also seen the former standard in use, which is the AUS-MEAT grading - evaluated on a scale from 0 (no intramuscular fat or marbling) to 9 (extensive amounts of intramuscular fat or marbling).
The following shows the equivalent scores between the MSA and AUS-MEAT grading standards, as well as the visible marbling levels for classification:
Marbling Patterns to determine AUS-MEAT and MSA grades
(Image adapted from Andrews Meat Industries)
Finding the Perfect Cut
What do these different standards mean and how do they compare to one another ? In our next article, we will address the differences between the Japanese and the Australian grading standards. Stay tuned!
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