When it comes to premium beef, you might have heard the terms ‘marbling’ and ‘BMS’ thrown around - but perhaps you’re not quite sure what they refer to, or why a higher score is better! Here at Black Origin Wagyu we pride ourselves on being an authority on premium beef, and that includes knowing a bit about measuring premium beef quality. Here’s a quick rundown on beef marbling, and how it corresponds to the quality of Wagyu beef.
What is marbling?
Cattle store fat in two different ways: intermuscular and intramuscular. Intermuscular fat exists in the spaces between the different muscles. You’re probably already familiar with intermuscular fat as the fat cap you commonly find along the side of your steak. We generally trim this kind of fat off before cooking our meat, as it’s too thick to render in the time it takes our meat to cook. This means it ends up chewy and unpleasant.
Intramuscular fat, however, is stored within the cattle’s muscles. You may recognise intramuscular fat as the little spots and streaks of white you see within the red of your steak. We also refer to intramuscular fat as ‘marbling’ because the pattern it makes within the meat is similar to the patterns found in marble.
Why is marbling good?
Unlike intermuscular fat, intramuscular fat renders (or melts) when we cook our meat. This process has the effect of ensuring the surrounding meat is kept super moist as it is cooked, resulting in an awesomely tender end product. As the intramuscular fat melts down, it also adds an incredible amount of extra richness and flavour to the meat.
How do you get superior marbling?
The Wagyu cattle breed originates from Japan. Thanks to their genetics, Wagyu cattle naturally store more fat intramuscularly than other cattle breeds. Over hundreds of years, Japanese experts selectively bred Wagyu cattle to maximise marbling within the muscles. They also figured out how to further enhance the marbling within the meat by feeding the cattle a specialised grain diet, playing them classical music, and regularly massaging them.
How is marbling measured?
Needing a standardised measure of Wagyu marbling, Japanese experts came up with a bespoke grading system: BMS, or Beef Marbling Score. This system scores the marbling of the meat as the indicator of Wagyu quality. The BMS scale assigns a score of 3 to 12, reflecting the concentration and delicacy of the marbling within the meat. The world’s most top-tier Japanese Wagyu can reach a BMS score of 12, characterised by incredibly fine and dense marbling. Our Black Origin Wagyu is graded by a Japanese Master Grader, and ranges from BMS 4 to BMS 9 - the highest Beef Marbling Score of any New Zealand-produced Wagyu.
Which marbling score should you choose?
If you’re new to Wagyu, it’s worth noting that the higher the BMS, the richer the meat. Many people find that due to the richness of high BMS Wagyu they can’t eat as large a portion as they normally would. We recommend you try Wagyu across a range of different BMS scores to figure out which BMS you prefer. On our shop page you can find Black Origin Wagyu at BMS 4-5, 6-7 and 8-9.