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Kobe beef grade system

There is a significant difference between the USDA beef grading system and the Japanese grading system. The current USDA beef grading system doesn’t even have classifications for beef with highly abundant marbling, like the types produced by Wagyu cattle. The American Wagyu Association is however in the process of setting standards for the USDA to use when grading Wagyu beef.

The Japanese system has 5 quality grades which are based on marbling, yield, meat color, firmness & texture and fat quality. 1 = Poor, 2 = Below Average, 3 = Average, 4 = Good and 5 = Excellent

  • The BMS numbers are used to determine marbling grade. 8 – 12 = Excellent, 5-7 = Good, 3-4 = Average, 2 = Below Average and 1 = Poor
  • There are 3 yield grades which are determined by an equation. The equation includes four carcass measurements which are taken between the sixth and seventh rib bones to determine the estimated cut-able percentage. Carcasses that are estimated at 72% or above are grade A, 69% -71% are grade B and below 69% are grade C.
  • Meat color and brightness are graded on a scale of 1-7.
  • Firmness is evaluated visually on a scale of 1-5 and texture is graded very fine – coarse.
  • Fat color, luster and quality as well as damage are graded as well.

The lowest score for each attribute is used to determine the overall quality grade. Please refer to the chart below for a comparison of USDA, Japanese quality grades and BMS numbers.

 

Japanese & USDA Beef Marbling Grade Comparison Chart

USDA
Quality Grade

USDA Marbling Grade*
Japanese
BMS Number

Japanese
Quality Grade

N/A

Extremely Abundant 50+

11 or 12
5
N/A

Extremely Abundant 0-49

10
5
N/A
Very Abundant 50-99
9
5
N/A
Very Abundant 0-49
8
5
N/A
Abundant
7
4
N/A
Moderately Abundant
6
4
Prime
Slightly Abundant
5
3
N/A
Moderate
4
3
N/A
Modest
3
3
Choice
Small
 
 
Select
Slight
 
 
N/A
Traces
 
 

*There are no official grades above Abundant in the USDA grading specifications. The terms Very Abundant and Extremely Abundant are arbitrary. Source: J.R. Busboom and J.J. Reeves - Washington State University.

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