Japanese wagyu beef is one of the most luxurious foods you can find. The Japanese have shown the world that it isn’t just about pure genetics of the cattle, nor the way the animals are raised but also about how the animal is slaughtered, how the meat is rated, how the steaks are sliced and cooked.
There are key differences in Japanese Wagyu butchery versus that in the United States. Firstly, the way the meat is cut, butchered. Japanese Wagyu striploin steaks (New York Strips) are 5 bone, containing Ribs 6-10, while US beef Ribeyes are 7 bone, containing ribs 5-12.
The striploin and ribeye are from different areas, but are both part of the longissimus dorsi, a muscle that runs down the side of the spine on the outside of the ribs. Japanese striploins appear different because they are cut further into the beef and contain the spinalis muscle, typically seen in a US domestic ribeye.
Secondly, the Japanese and the US grading systems are vastly different. US beef is graded on quality for tenderness, juiciness and flavor and yield grades for the amount of usable lean meat that is available.
The Japanese grading system is far more detailed. It evaluates yield grades, quality grades but also contains a separate scale for marbling, called Beef Marbling Standard (BMS), ranging from 1-12.
There are three yield grades, A B and C ranging from 72% and above to 69% and below. There are five meat quality grades from poor to excellent. With all this in mind, an A5 cut, for example, would come from an animal with a yield grade of 72%, with an excellent quality grade, on the marbling scale between 8-12. And, no we are not talking about diamonds, but about superior beef!
Thirdly, the other difference between Japanese and US cuts is simply the thickness. Traditional American steaks, like Ribeye or New York Strip, are cut around 1’’ or more depending on the cut. In Japan, traditional Wagyu steaks are cut thinner to provide the best eating experience.
Thinner steaks celebrate the traditional Japanese cooking style of teppanyaki, where thin strips are seared on a stainless steel pan or skillet. Steaks are seared quickly on each side, warming the meat just enough to melt the interior fat. A5 Wagyu in Japan is meant to be shared enjoyed as an experience and not as a full meal.