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What Is Beef Marbling and Why Does It Have Such an Impact on Quality?

What Is Beef Marbling and Why Does It Have Such an Impact on Quality?

If you’re a red meat lover, you’ve probably heard about beef marbling. But what is marbling, and how does it impact the overall quality of beef? Continue reading to find answers to those questions and learn what role steak marbling plays in taste, preparation, and cost.

What Is Marbling in Meat?

Beef marbling is flavor, tenderness, and juiciness. Technically speaking, steak marbling refers to the white flecks of fat you can see before cooking red meat. The fat known as marbling is known as intramuscular fat content. It’s important not to confuse it with the larger chunks of fat sometimes seen on the outer edges of steak or trimmed off by a butcher, known as intermuscular fat.

Which Cuts Have the Most Steak Marbling?

Bone-in and boneless ribeyes stand alone as the most abundantly marbled cuts of steak. Prime rib, which ribeyes are sourced from, has subtle differences and superior marbling in the meat. Tomahawks and flat iron steaks also contain ample amounts of intramuscular fat.

How Does the Amount of Beef Marbling Affect Quality and Price?

Along with having a tremendous impact on the mouthfeel and flavor of a steak or roast, the amount of marbling in meat can determine preparation and cost. The more beef marbling a piece of steak has, the more you can expect to pay, but as the adage goes—you get what you pay for. While the cost of ultra-premium steaks may leave them as only a celebratory splurge, ordering online makes top-quality steak more accessible and affordable.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grading system is a marbling score. The more steak marbling present in a cut, the higher the grade. For meat sold as steaks and roasts, there are three beef quality grading tiers:

USDA Prime

USDA Prime is the highest grade of beef a piece of red meat can achieve. This grade is reserved for cuts with an abundance of beef marbling. Typically these cuts of meat come from younger cattle that were well-fed. Because of the extensive marbling in meat graded as Prime, you can expect these cuts to be offered at reputable butcher shops and upscale steakhouses. If prepared at home, Prime cuts are well suited to dry, high-heat cooking like grilling, roasting, and broiling.

USDA Choice

Like Prime, Choice is high-quality beef; it just doesn’t have as much marbling. Choice cuts from more tender muscles are excellent for dry, high-heat cooking, while the leaner cuts (flank, sirloin, and hanger steaks) lend themselves to braising or simmering with flavorful liquids such as wine or stock. If your go-to steak source is the grocery store, chances are you’re familiar with Choice.

USDA Select

While still of high quality, the Select level of beef marbling does offer noticeably less juiciness, tenderness, and overall beefy flavor. Only the most tender cuts graded as Select should be grilled. Marinades and braising liquids are a fine choice to enhance the flavors and tenderness of leaner cuts with less beef marbling.

We should note that grading beef marbling is relative to the particular cut being evaluated. Ribeyes, known for their extensive marbling, at the Choice level have more fat content than a leaner cut, like flank steak at the Prime tier.

What Is American Wagyu Beef?

American Wagyu beef is the result of crossbreeding the highest quality American cattle with full-blood Japanese Wagyu cattle. Japanese cattle are among the most sought-after and expensive in the world and must meet exacting standards to be considered such. By crossbreeding American cattle known for their robust flavor with Wagyu cattle with the most substantial beef marbling, you create a genuinely one-of-a-kind steak experience.

What Beef Marbling Score Does American Wagyu Have?

The USDA does not have an established beef marblinggrading system for American Wagyu beef, but a reputable beef supplier holds itself to exacting standards. The marbling in meat sourced from American Wagyu cattle is far superior to USDA Prime.

The Japanese use a Beef Marbling Score (BMS) to gauge beef marbling in Wagyu. BMS scores of three and four are considered basic. Though the lowest tier for Wagyu, don’t be fooled into thinking this is lower quality. The steak marbling in these cuts is still well beyond what you find at the supermarket and would even dazzle the most ardent steak lover.

As BMS scores progress to seven or higher, the amount of beef marbling is vastly superior to Prime. These steaks are so rich, buttery, and juicy that they’re often described as melting in your mouth. This is the amount of steak marbling you should expect from an American Wagyu retailer that holds itself and its products to the highest standards.

Experience the Best of Beef Marbling With Good Silver’s Steaks and Roasts

If the superior steak marbling of American Wagyu is what you’re seeking, Good Silver Steak Co. has what you’re looking for. We offer 17 cuts of steak with beef marbling that grades at two different tiers of the BMS. Our Sterling choices scored up to seven, while our Finest scored eight and higher.


You can also have tri-tips, whole or roast-sized briskets, and chuck roasts shipped directly to your door. If you’re having difficulty deciding which cuts to order, you can select a flight pack to try a variety of beef. And if you want a large quantity of American Wagyu steaks with unmatched beef marbling, our ultimate butcher boxes are perfect for feeding a crowd or stocking up on your favorites. 

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