KNOW YOUR MEAT CUTS - MEAT GRADING?
For most grading systems the primary determinant of beef quality degree is based on the Ribeye.
Beef quality grading varies by country. In the US, the USDA grading is USDA Prime, USDA Choice, USDA Select, while other countries use letters, numbers, or a combination.
On an international scale, the predominant grading systems are the ones used in the Australia and Japan.
The common indicator across these Beef Grading systems is the BMS or Beef Marbling Score.
So, what is beef marbling score?
Marbling is the white fat that can be seen in the meat muscle evaluated on a cut of beef. Marbling is vital for quality measurement of tenderness, juiciness, richness, and especially the Wagyu eating experience. This score is called "beef marbling score".
The most predominant beef in North America is the Angus beef, and it averages a BMS of 2 but can reach maximums of 5. Grass-Fed beef will grade Choice at best.
Wagyu cattle averages BMS 4-6 but it all depends on genetics, diet, and age, it can go to maximums of BMS 11-12.
THE AUSTRALIAN BEEF QUALITY SYSTEM
The Australian beef grading system is known as Meat Standards Australia (or MSA) and is regulated by Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA).
The MSA is a relatively new grading system and it is not very popular (yet). When calculating the MSA grade for beef, several attributes are measured such as meat color, marbling, fat depth, carcass weight, maturity, and pH... it is very comprehensive.
The MSA marbling system is graded on a scale of 100 (no intramuscular fat) to 1190 (extreme amounts of intramuscular fat) in increments of 10.
The older standard is the AUS-MEAT grading, which goes from 0 to 9. It is VERY similar to BMS as it provides an indication of the amount of marbling in beef. It uses a scale of 0 (no intramuscular fat) to 9 (extreme amounts of intramuscular fat) in increments of 1.
The Japanese Beef Quality System
The Japanese system is the most detailed. The grading of meat is managed by the JMGA (Japanese Meat Grading Association) Beef Carcass Grading Standard.
The overall grade consists of two grades: Yield Grade (designated by a letter) and Quality Grade (designated by a number).
Yield Grade measures the amount of usable meat on a carcass and range from A (the highest) to C (the lowest).
“A” usually means the cow was a full-blood Wagyu. “B” is usually a crossbred Wagyu. “C” is usually for Angus or Wholestain cattle.
Quality grade is calculated by evaluating four different factors:
1) Meat marbling
2) Meat colour and brightness
3) Meat firmness and texture and
4) Fat colour, luster, and quality.
THE AMERICAN BEEF QUALITY SYSTEM
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), separates beef into eight different grades. The top five are sold to the consumer as cuts of beef, while the three lowest grades are typically used only for processed and canned meats.
Quality beef is usually graded USDA CHOICE and USDA PRIME. The American system focuses on quality grades for tenderness, juiciness, and flavour; and yield grades for the amount of usable lean meat on the carcass.
A USDA Prime steak will present abundant marbling... there are no official grades above Abundant in the USDA specifications. The terms Very Abundant and Extremely Abundant are arbitrary.
AUSTRALIAN WAGYU RIBEYE STEAK (MARBLE SCORE 5, 250G|350G, ~2CM|2.5CM THICKNESS)
AUSTRALIAN PREMIUM BLACK ANGUS RIBEYE STEAK (SCOTCH FILLET, MS 2+, 400G, ~2.5CM)
NZ PREMIUM GRASS-FED RIBEYE STEAK (SCOTCH FILLET, 283G(10OZ) | 350G, ~2CM|2.5CM THICKNESS)
Thank you to Meat N' Bone for assisting in writing this guide on different Beef Grading Systems.