For Wagyu beef, brand promise is everything. For brand owners, brand recognition represents a known quality, where a key element of the story is marbling.
Accurately grading marbling gives consumers and brand owners clarity and confidence in the brand and eating experience.
Wagyu is renowned for its exceptional eating experience and is due principally to its unique intramuscular fat characteristics. The degree and quality of the fat distribution is what determines the quality of Wagyu and its demand by consumers.
Currently, qualified meat graders assess beef carcase parameters including carcase weight, P8 fat depth, dentition, ossification, pH, intramuscular fat content (marble score), meat colour, fat colour and eye muscle area under the Aus-Meat grading system. Voluntary additional values can also be included to define the eating quality under Meat Standards Australia.
To further enhance the specification of marbling and marbling fineness (how the fat is distributed through the eye muscle), objective carcase measurement using a digital camera is undertaken. The Australian Wagyu Association in partnership with Meat Image Japan, are using specifically designed cameras for Wagyu for Australian produced Wagyu. To earn more about how the MIJ-30 objective camera performs, download the fact sheet (PDF – 1mb).
Marbling is the intramuscular fat (IMF) flecked through the beef, which gives the eating quality greater tenderness, juiciness and flavour and the Wagyu eating experience that consumers expect.
The marbling score is a component of the AUS-MEAT beef quality grading system, and refers to visible fat found between muscle fibre bundles and is assessed within the ribeye muscle. Marbling score is assessed visually by an AUS-MEAT qualified grader during the process of carcase grading using the scoring range 0 to 9 as shown below.
Marbling in Wagyu beef is as much about nutrition as it is about genetics. For breeding, producers look for animals that have a high potential for marbling to breed from. Nutrition from pregnancy through to carcase is designed to give the best possible outcomes for the cow and the calf for whole of life, ensuring the necessary roughage, protein and energy are present in their diet.