Understanding the Japanese A5 Wagyu Grading System

How is Japanese A5 Wagyu beef graded, and why is it important?

Authentic Japanese A5 Wagyu beef is a delicacy. Prized for its rich marbling and melt-in-your mouth texture, there’s no question this highly sought-after product is the most premium beef on the market. Long recognized for its unrivaled quality, Japanese A5 Wagyu beef provides diners with an unparalleled dining experience and a satisfying flavor that’s hard to forget.

Beef designated as A5 Wagyu is not breed specific, rather it’s quality specific, and obtaining the A5 rating isn’t easy. This highest rating is incredibly exclusive and reserved for only the most premium cows. Diners who enjoy Wagyu beef may be curious to know how A5 Wagyu beef is graded? And, what the Wagyu grade of A5 means.  

In order to be labeled as Japanese A5 Wagyu, it’s helpful to understand what Japanese A5 Wagyu beef is, and why it’s so highly prized.

To understand this process, let’s start at the beginning.


Why is Japanese A5 Wagyu beef graded?

Many Japanese Wagyu farming families have developed their cows over centuries and have invested significant time, money, and resources into their herds. Great care has been taken to develop breeding programs that produce the highest quality cows, who are then nurtured until they’re transferred to finishing feed lots. To protect this specialized product, a grading system was implemented to guarantee the authenticity and quality of commercial Japanese A5 Wagyu beef.


Who conducts the Wagyu beef grading process?

All Japanese Wagyu beef grading is conducted and overseen by seasoned meat inspectors from the Japan Meat Grading Association. As the beef goes through the grading process, not one, but three inspectors work closely together to assess the quality of the product. Japanese Wagyu beef inspectors are highly respected in their field and must go through at least three years of training, while being mentored by other inspectors.


The Grading Process

Like any high-end luxury product, it’s imperative that Japanese Wagyu beef goes through a very specific grading and inspection process in order to maintain the integrity of the product and guarantee authenticity. To achieve this standard, Wagyu beef is graded on two factors: Grade and Yield.


Japanese A5 Wagyu beef: Grade vs. Yield

The yield is the first part of the grading process and begins before the cow is slaughtered. Yield  is used to determine the amount of meat available on the cow, versus the weight of the bone and fat. Before this step even begins, the cow is weighed.

In order to qualify as Japanese Wagyu beef, the cow must be under 499.9 kg (1102 lbs).

The yield grade is broken down by:

  • ‘A’ - at least 72% of the animal can be harvested
  • ‘B’ - a minimum of 69% of meat is harvestable
  • ‘C’ - less than 69% of the animal is usable


Consumers of Wagyu beef are likely more familiar with the grade portion of this system, as the grade measures the level of marbling, color, fat standard, firmness and meat texture.

A numerical rating of 1 through 5 is given to each cow, with the prestigious rating of 5 achieved only when the Wagyu beef has a ‘very good’ firmness and a ‘very fine’ texture. This level of grade typically indicates an extraordinary amount of marbling, which is part of what gives Wagyu beef it’s silky texture.

Measuring the grade factor of the beef is more nuanced than scoring the cow’s yield.


How are scores assessed?

The grading process begins with samples of meat from between the 6th and 7th rib of the animal. With other samples taken throughout the rest of the body to confirm uniform quality of the meat.

Once the entire process is complete, an overall score is then assessed to each cow using a letter (A-C) for it’s yield, and a number (1-5), for the quality of the meat. Cows that achieve the distinguished A5 standard have gone through a rigorous grading process and are the most prized Japanese Wagyu beef in the world.

In the Japanese system, the BMS scale goes from 3 to 12, with 3 being the basic minimum of marbling a steak should have, and 12 being a steak that is almost white with marbling (because BMS scores of 1 and 2 show almost no marbling, they're not even considered). Wagyu Haus offers BMS grading of 10 - 12 wagyu beef carefully selected and packaged by our team. We seek to provide the highest quality wagyu available for the best culinary experience.


wagyu haus bms grading scale

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