Meat Grading System

Index

  1. Japan
    1. Yield Grade (A, B, or C)
    2. Meat Quality Grade (1 to 5)
      1. Marbling: Beef Marbling Standard (BMS)
      2. Color: Beef Color Standard (BCS)
      3. Texture
      4. Fat: Beef Fat Standard (BFS)
  2. Meat Grading System Around the World

 
 

Japan

The grading system used in Japan shows yield grade (A, B, or C) and meat quality grade (1-5). These two indicators combined together show the grading of beef, “A5” for the best yield grade and meat quality grade. The grading is judged by Japan Meat Grading Association (in Japanese).

Meat Grading System in Japan

Because yield grade shows how much meat could be taken from carcass, it is mainly for producers and distributors to set the price. Consumers, who eat wagyu as little pieces, do not have to worry about this yield grade much. What matters more to consumers is meat quality grade. Meat quality grade is graded by how it looks, therefore it does not assure the taste of meat; but at least, higher grade means that it contains more marbling, which would provide “melting” experience in your mouth.

 

Yield Grade (A, B, or C)

Yield grade indicates how much meat could be taken from carcass compared to standard.

Yield Rate Meaning Yield Score
A Yield is higher than standard Greater than or equal to 72
B Carcass has standard yield Greater than or equal to 69, less than 72
C Yield is lower than standard Less than 69

Yield grade is given based on the yield score, calculated from area of rib eye, thickness of short ribs, thickness of subcutaneous fat, weight of half carcass. Area and thickness are measured by cutting between 6th and 7th ribs of left carcass.

Yield Score
= 67.37 + 0.130 * area of rib eye (cm2)
               + 0.667 * thickness of short ribs (cm)
               – 0.025 * weight of half carcass (kg)
               – 0.869 * subcutaneous fat (cm)
               + 2.049 (if meat breed(a))


(a) All wagyu in Japan is classified as meat breed. 2.049 would not be added if the cattle is diary breed or mix of diary and meat breeds.

Parts of Measurement for Yield Grading
Picture from Japan Meat Grading Association
(translation is added to the original picture)

 
Yield grade may be downgraded if:

  • intermuscular fat is thick compared to that of cattle with the same weight of carcass and/or area of rib eye
  • thigh is not thick enough, and shoulder and thigh are significantly unbalanced

 
 

Meat Quality Grade (1 to 5)

Meat Quality Grade is graded by four factors of meat quality: marbling, color, texture, and fat. Grades of 1-5 would be given to all four factors, and the lowest grade of all four would be the Meal Quality Grade of a cattle. 5 is the best, 1 is worst.

 

Marbling: Beef Marbling Standard (BMS)

Marbling (サシ (sa-shi) in Japanese) is one of the main characteristics of wagyu, and it is the flecks of fat in the meat. There is a Beef Marbling Standard (BMS) to know how much marbling wagyu includes. BMS has scores of No. 1 to No. 12 given by checking marbling of rib eye and its surroundings. BMS No. 12 has most marbling, and BMS No. 1 means there is no marbling.

Marbling is graded to 1-5 based on this score as shown in the following table.

Marbling Grade 1 2 3 4 5
BMS (No.) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

BMS of No. 10 or higher is often served at the most prestigious restaurants.

BMS Chart
Pictures from Japan Meat Grading Association

 

Color: Beef Color Standard (BCS)

Grade of color is determined by its color and gloss of the red meat. Color is scored No. 1 to 7 using color chart below. This score is called Beef Color Standard (BCS).

BCS Chart
Picture from Japan Meat Grading Association

Color is graded to 1 to 5 based on the BCS and gloss of meat as shown in the following table.

Color Grade Color (BCS) Gloss
5 No.3 to 5 Excellent
4 No.2 to 6 Good
3 No.1 to 6 Standard
2 No.1 to 7 Close to standard
1 Everything else

 

Texture

Grade of texture is given by checking firmness and texture of meat. Being firm does not mean that meat is stiff; it means that meat has decent amount of moisture.

Texture Grade Firmness Texture
5 Excellent Excellent
4 Good Good
3 Standard Standard
2 Close to Standard Close to Standard
1 Loose Coarse

The standard texture of meat (Grade 3) is the following.

Texture Grade 3
Picture from Japan Meat Grading Association

 

Fat: Beef Fat Standard (BFS)

Grade of fat is determined by its color, and its gloss and quality of the fat. Color is scored No. 1 to 7 using color chart below. This score is called Beef Fat Standard (BFS).

BFS Chart
Picture from Japan Meat Grading Association

Fat is graded to 1 to 5 based on the BCS and gloss of meat as shown in the following table.

Color Grade Color (BCS) Gloss and Quality
5 No.1 to 4 Excellent
4 No.1 to 5 Good
3 No.1 to 6 Standard
2 No.1 to 7 Close to Standard
1 Everything else

 
 

Meat Grading System Around the World

There are many other grading systems used around the world.
Some of them include: