Why are First Light’s steaks graded with a “Marble Score” or “MBS” number?

Countries around the world have adopted different systems for grading beef; in this case, by “grading” we mean measuring the amount of intramuscular fat or “marbling” in a steak. Let’s take a quick world tour…

In the United States, there are eight different categories used to measure the amount of intramuscular fat, or “marbling” as it’s commonly referred: Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter, and Canner. In grocery stores or butcher shops, you will typically find Prime, Choice, or Select, with Prime having the most intramuscular fat (i.e. marbling) and Select having the least (to learn more, click here).

The Europeans have adopted a number system from 1-5, but for some reason categories 4 & 5 are subdivided into low and high. So, when you find yourself in Europe buying a steak, the measure of marbling could be 1, 2, 3, 4L, 4H, 5L, 5H. (To learn more about the European grid of grading, click here).

In Kobe, Japan, where the famous “Kobe” beef originates, they adopted a system of measuring marbling called the Beef Marbling Standard (BMS) which uses a number 1 to 12, 1 being the least, and 12 representing the most marbling. However, you won’t find the 1 to 12 scale when you’re buying the Kobe. Instead, they incorporated the BMS system into a secondary system that uses a letter (A, B or C) and a number (1 through 5). The A, B, or C refers to “yield” from the carcass which is more important to the producer than to the consumer; and the 1 through 5 represent ranges of the BMS scale. So, a “5” means that the beef graded between 8 to 12 on the BMS Scale. A “4” means the beef graded between 6-8 on the BMS scale. And it continues down. For aficionados procuring Kobe beef, you will aim to purchase A5 beef, or maybe A4.

Are you confused yet? You should be. We were certainly confused when we needed to grade our beef. At First Light, we have a very unique product that does not fit into any of the scales above. Although Kobe beef farmers use the same Wagyu breed as First Light farmers, none of the above scales are designed to grade 100% Grass Fed beef. So, we adopted our own system and we refer to it as Marble Beef Score, or “MBS” for short. The numbers range from 1 to 9.

Steak Club members receive steaks that grade 6 and over, including what refer to as the “unicorns” – being 100% Grass-Fed beef that grade 9.

Relatively speaking, a First Light MBS 6 steak will have about the same amount of marbling as a USDA Prime steak, and about the same amount of marbling as a Kobe A3. Keep in mind it’s an inexact science.

Because our beef are the special Wagyu breed, the same breed that produces Kobe beef, we have adopted the scale used in Japan, referred to as the “MBS” scale (Marble Beef Score).

Steaks sent out to our First Light Steak Club members are generally MBS 6 or higher. The best thing to do is visualize it.