We talk a lot about marbling. We show a lot of pictures of marbling. We go to sleep dreaming about marbling. In fact, our whole mission in life is to increase the levels of marbling in the products we send to your plates. All around the world, marbling is one of the most critical factors in beef grading scales. With all this attention it seems marbling is in fact, a big deal. But what exactly is marbling?
Marbling is technically known as Intramuscular Fat, or IMF for short. When looking at a raw steak, marbling is the white fat streaks or flecks mingling in the red meat of that steak. These flecks of fat are what give beef its soft texture and carries the flavor throughout each bite. Marbling fat is not to be confused with the thick white fat layer rounding the outside of a steak. While it IS fat, marbling fat is different.
How is marbling different?
- This fat is comprised of Monounsaturated Fats. It is full of the essential fatty acids Omega 3, 6, 9, as found in olive oil and wild salmon.
- Marblings isn't chewy. Actually the opposite... Marbling is what gives good beef its desirable, silky texture.
- Marbling melts while the meat cooks, carrying flavor throughout the meat and while keeping it tender and juicy. In fact, the temperature at which marbling melts is not far above room temperature.
Because marbling is so important to the positive taste and quality of beef, it is one of the critical factors of beef grading scales around the world.
How is marbling evaluated?
- Marbling is measured as a percentage of fat inside the red meat.
- It is a critical factor in grading beef in the USA, Japan, and around the world. While every country has their own grading scale which include various factors, IMF% is a top consideration in all methods.
- The actual percentage is measured by evaluating the Ribeye. This is done through a visual test (eyeballing or comparing to photos/chips) or with a Carcass Camera, as is the standard in Japan.
Basically, the higher the marbling content, the higher quality the beef is considered and the more expensive it will be.
Why is marbling touted so much when discussing Wagyu?
- Wagyu is famed for it's melt-in-your mouth texture and rich flavors. These qualities are largely due to high marbling content.
- Wagyu cattle are a breed of cattle that are genetically predisposed to have higher marbling levels than any other breed of cattle.
- Specific feeding and raising practices are required to cultivate the marbling of Wagyu. This is why raising Wagyu takes craftsman-like care when compared to other types of cattle.
- As mentioned above, the healthy fatty acids that comprise the marbling are essential for a healthful diet.
Fun Facts about marbling:
- In Japan marbling is called Sashi.
- In Japan a BMS (Beef Marble Score) of 12 has a minimum of over 56% IMF. The beef is so rich, only small amounts are eaten, not an entire 8 oz steak. Only 0.5% of Wagyu in Japan reaches a BMS of 12.
- Marbling is considered best when it's bright white and evenly distributed, in fine, thin veins, rather than coarse chunks. The more delicate and lacy the marbling, the better it will permeate throughout the entire cut and create that signature mouthfeel.
So the next time you're shopping for a steak or comparing types of beef, remember that marbling doesn't make a steak "too fatty" (as some people might think). In fact, it’s what delivers Wagyu’s healthy omega fatty acids to your body. Marbling is what makes beef delicious. It’s what makes an incredible steak leaps and bounds above an average one.