Australian Wagyu Forum
 

Japanese Beef Markets: Wagyu Price/Quality Segmentation

The foundation of Japanese Wagyu quality leadership is the national meat grading system (JMGA ), applied at wholesale level, by which individual carcasses are measured and ranked.  Grading starts with breed type/sex, then measurement of meat qualities such as marbling, yield, meat colour & texture.  A succinct English-language web site here provides full details of the system itself.

The system enables major quality and subsequent price differentiation between individual fullblood qualities and also differing livestock categories, such as fullblood vs crossbred (or F1), to which fullblood eating qualities – and therefore fullblood grades – do NOT apply.  By defining a wide range of qualities for differing culinary applications at a variety of price-points, the system ensures the broadest possible market (optimising market volume and producer opportunity), and because all data is collated independently, accurate market analysis is also enabled.    The result is comprehensive QA for domestic consumers and global food service buyers which ensures consistent customer experience with all Japanese Wagyu products.

The Grade/Price Comparison table below depicts the system at work, demonstrating actual grade/price relationships in the Tokyo Meat Market in late 2011.  As indicated by the ‘JMGA Grade’ columns, meat quality measurement extends far beyond ‘MRB score’. Yield is a critically important measure in an era of expensive cattle feeding programs, and by international standards Japanese Wagyu ‘Primal Meat Yield’ percentages are extraordinarily high.

JMGA Grade JMGA Grade Specification Indicative Tokyo Meat Market Price  
Nov 2011
Relative Economic Value
A5Grade Eligibility

Fullblood Only

A5 Specification A5 Producer Return Carcass/kg 100% (1)
MRB Score 8~12 ¥2,238.00 $US29.95 $AUD29.84
Primal meat yield >72%
Meat Colour 3~5
Fat Colour 1~4
Firmness 5
A4Grade Eligibility

Fullblood Only

A4 Specification A4 Producer Return Carcass/kg 70%
MRB Score 5~7 ¥1,569.00 $US20.51 $AUD20.92
Primal meat yield >72%
Meat Colour 2~6
Fat Colour 1~5
Firmness 4
A3Grade Eligibility

Fullblood Only

A3 Specification A3 Producer Return Carcass/kg 55%
MRB Score 3~4 ¥1,222.00 $US15.97 $AUD16.29
Primal meat yield >72%
Meat Colour 1~6
Fat Colour 1~6
Firmness 3
A2Grade Eligibility

Fullblood Only

A2 Specification A2 Producer Return Carcass/kg 31%
MRB Score 2 ¥703.00 $US9.19 $AUD9.37
Primal meat yield >72%
Meat Colour 1~7
Fat Colour 1~7
Firmness 2
B3Grade Eligibility

FB/F1

B3 Specification B3 Producer Return Carcass/kg 31%
MRB Score 3~4 ¥703.00 $US9.19 $AUD9.37
Primal meat yield 69%~72%
Meat Colour 1~6
Fat Colour 1~6
Firmness 3

Table:  Tokyo Meat Market:  Wagyu Carcass Grade/Price Comparison, 2011.

Breed/price relationships are worth study.  In this cognoscenti market, JMGA-graded Wagyu F1 (Holstein), is worth less than a third of a premium fullblood carcass on a per carcass kg basis.  Even given that the best Western-produced fullblood carcasses would grade A3-A4 JMGA, F1 (Holstein) qualities deliver an average market value < 50% of the finest Western-equivalent fullbloods.  F1 (other breeds) are not quoted at all.

From a quality assurance perspective, for the most demanding traditional Japanese cuisine or experimental fusion chefs worldwide, the quality range within the JMGA system clearly enables superior provedore selection.   In Tokyo, the largest quality/volume segment is usually A4. Following is a snapshot of comparative volume scaling by grade segments for an indicative period in 2011, followed by expanded Tokyo price detail for a range of JMGA qualities:

Tokyo Meat Market 2011:  Monthly Volume Segmentation By JMGA Grade
Grade A5 (FB) A4 (FB) A3 (FB) A2 (FB) B3 (F1) B2 (F1)
No. Hd

11220

14474 9705 3803 5993 6466

% Share

21%

27% 18% 7% 11% 13%

Table:  Indicative month segmentation by Grade/Livestock category based on 2011 MAFF data  

Tokyo Meat Market Fullblood Wagyu Carcass Indicative Pricing Detail
FB Wagyu Heifer Carcass/Kg FB Wagyu Steer Carcass/Kg
Grade A-5 A-4 A-3 A-2 B-3 A-5 A-4 A-3 A-2 B-3
Month JP¥ JP¥ JP¥ JP¥ JP¥ JP¥ JP¥ JP¥ JP¥ JP¥
Jun-11 2,162 1,573 1,299 958 1,178 1,930 1,542 1,310 1,106 1,202
Jul-11 2,138 1,526 1,191 809 1,061 1,893 1,435 1,145 807 973
Aug11 2,268 1,700 1,292 880 1,149 1,955 1,585 1,264 968 1,118
Sep11 2,017 1,536 1,193 831 1,101 1,714 1,437 1,182 925 1,029
Oct-11 2,058 1,500 1,111 664 898 1,665 1,340 1,031 708 867
Nov11 2,238 1,569 1,222 703 1,051 1,749 1,495 1,221 889 1,066


Table:  FB Carcase/kg; 2011 MAFF data

 

Tokyo Meat Market Holstein/Wagyu F1 Carcass Indicative Pricing Detail
Month F1 Female Carcase/Kg F1 Steer Carcass/Kg
Grade B-3 Grade B-2 Grade B-3 Grade B-2
JP¥ JP¥ JP¥ JP¥
Jun-11 1,086 897 1,127 1,002
Jul-11 984 789 1,067 906
Aug-11 1,080 866 1,111 917
Sep-11 980 740 942 747
Oct-11 796 554 781 580
Nov-11 859 582 870 622


Table:  Holstein WY F1 Carcase/kg; 2011.  MAFF data.