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American USDA Prime vs. Japanese A5 Wagyu: A Battle Of The Meat Grades

What is USDA Prime

USDA Prime is the highest quality grade of the USDA beef grading system, it has great amounts ofmarbling and advanced taste that produces exceptionally juicy, tender, and flavorful beef. It also has the highest degree of marbling. USDA Prime beef only makes up 2-3% of the meat that's currently being sold in the US market. It's usually served in high-end hotels and restaurants. There are other grades such as choice and select which we already coveredhere.

What does USDA Prime taste like?

Compared to USDA Choice and Select, USDA Prime beef is known for its outstanding tenderness, abundant marbling, and rich, beefy flavor. When cooked well, it's exceptionally juicy and boasts a luxurious buttery texture.

What is Japanese A5 Wagyu

The Marbling On A5 Wagyu Close up

Wagyu or “和牛” directly translates into “Japanese cattle”. The grading system goes from A to C with each grade having a level of 1-5. It is managed by theJMGA (Japanese Meat Grading Association). The letter grade means how much usable meat the carcass has and the number level means how high the marbling on the meat is. This means while a restaurant or store might market a cut of meat as Wagyu it might beB4 Wagyu, not the coveted A5. Japanese A5 Wagyu is the most premium and expensive cut of meat currently on the market. It is legendary among beef lovers for its high amount of marbling and heavy flavors.

How is A5 Wagyu prepared? 

A5 Wagyu prepared to make Yakiniku

While Western chefs prefer to make dishes that have larger cuts of meat like an entire steak. Eastern chefs prefer to make their dishes using thin slices of meat, like in the picture above. You will rarely see one large slab of steak like in Western restaurants, however, you will more likely see thinner slices of meat that are typically grilled right in front of you with plenty of vegetables as side dishes. Sukiyaki and Shabu-shabu which are two dishes that use thinly sliced pieces of beef to create a hotpot, and Yakiniku which is directly translated into grilled meat are the most popular ways that Wagyu are prepared and eaten in the East.

What does A5 Wagyu taste like? 

Due to the extremely high marbling that A5 Wagyu has people describe the taste as very heavy and rich. From personal experience, A5 Wagyu was a “Melt in my mouth” experience. It was very juicy and tender. And due to its high levels of marbling no oil was added while grilling the meat because the fat is more than enough to ensure the meat stays moist.

Key Differences Between A5 and Prime


A5 is leagues above Prime in terms of marbling. The large amounts of intermuscular fat are what separates A5 Wagyu from USDA prime meats. It will always be more juicy, and tender and have a richer flavor to it. However, a good cut of USDA prime can still be juicy and tender if cooked in the right way.

Preparation and presentation  

While you can make a Yakiniku using thin slices of meat from USDA Prime and you can make a traditional steak and mashed potatoes using a large cut of A5 Usually both types of meat are prepared and presented differently. A cut of meat from Prime will usually end up becoming a pan-seared steak, while meat from A5 Wagyu will usually be presented in small thin slices to be grilled.


Even though cuts of USDA Prime already go at a premium price, it pales in comparison to the price of A5 Wagyu. On average two 10 oz USDA Prime New York Strip Steaks will set you back around 50-60 USD. But for the same cut from an A5 Wagyu will set you back twice as much at around 120-140 USD.

Which Is Best For You?

This really depends on what you want. The perspective on this matter varies depending on who you consult. Officially, it may hold the highest rating. Nonetheless, A5 Wagyu stands out for its unparalleled richness in flavor and, correspondingly, its higher cost, making it an exceptional choice for truly unique occasions. But, when considering an option for your regular weekly steak dinner, A5 Wagyu may not be the most suitable choice. On the other hand, USDA Prime beef is ideally suited for your everyday or weekly steak meals.

Now let’s start cooking 

Easy 3-ingredient pan-seared A5 Wagyu Ribeye Steak 

It’s best to prepare and eat Wagyu in a simpler manner in order to preserve its natural taste and characteristics. So, for this recipe, we will be only using 3 ingredients to let you get the full-on A5 experience without anything else touching your tastebuds.


  • 1 A5 Wagyu Ribeye Steak
  • Kosher salt and pepper

How to cook:

  1. Season both sides of your steak thoroughly
  2. Insert your  MeatStick probe to monitor internal temperature. It’s important to know the internal temp because you don’t want to ruin such an expensive cut of meat.
  3. Preheat your skillet. Remember A5 has great amounts of marbling already so there is no need to add oil to the pan, unlike a traditional steak.
  4. Place the steak on the hot skillet
  5. Flip once and wait for the internal temperature to reach 135°F for a nice  medium rare.
  6. Enjoy


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