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Marbling is the fine flecks of fat that appear within the muscles of red meat (also referred to as intramuscular fat). It’s deposited unevenly throughout the body, with most found at the front in cuts like scotch fillet, rib eye, and blade.
Marbling is the last fat to be deposited and so it is the first fat to be used by the animal as an energy store. Therefore to maximise marbling within red meat, cattle must be on a highly nutritious diet – whether that be grass or grain. Different types of farming methods produce different results.
Marbling can also be affected by genetics and some breeds such as Wagyu are renowned for their extensive marble characteristics.
Marbling contributes to the juiciness and flavour of meat. When cooking, steaks containing high levels of intra-muscular marbling have a richer, sweeter flavour and tend to produce a softer, moister, and more tender steak.
As a wagyu steak cooks, its marbling returns to the form it is in when the animal was alive – liquid – and is absorbed by the meat. This is unique in wagyu as with most other marbled steaks, there should be a significant loss of this ‘liquid’ marbling.