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Japanese Media Report Excitement on U.S. Beef News

Published: Sep 07, 2012
The recommendation this week by the Prion Subcommittee of Japan’s Food Safety Commission that Japan expand access for beef from the United States (as well as Canada, France and the Netherlands) to cattle up to 30 months of age has generated widespread media coverage in Japan and enthusiasm from the country’s retailers and foodservice industry professionals.

While final action on the Prion Subcommittee’s recommendation, and subsequent negotiation with the United States on details of implementing the change, likely won’t be finalized until later this year, excerpts from several Japanese media outlets’ coverage of the story show growing anticipating of an increase in U.S. beef sales in Japan.

“It is very encouraging to see such a positive response from the Japanese public and media, particularly since the subject of age limitations on beef imports has been top-of-mind there for some time,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “The U.S. beef industry, through USMEF, has kept a high profile in Japan through the ‘We Care’ campaign and in ongoing educational programs for importers, buyers, retailers and consumers alike to reinforce both the safety of U.S. beef as well as the current science regarding BSE. Clearly, with the importance and magnitude of the Japanese market, there is no better use for our USDA Market Access Program (MAP) dollars and our industry’s checkoff dollars.”

Seng noted that each of the top companies quoted in the news articles had been reluctant to reintroduce U.S. beef after the 2003 BSE case in the United States for fear of consumer backlash.

“USMEF has worked closely with each of these companies to ensure that they have a clear understanding of the quality and safety of U.S. beef,” he said, “and their public comments show that they now believe that offering American beef to their customers is both a sound and welcome opportunity.”

Seng also noted that after last year’s devastating earthquake and tsunami, the American red meat industry was an active and visible partner in USMEF’s Japan Relief and Recovery Effort.

“We worked hand-in-hand with our friends in Japan to help the victims of that horrible natural disaster,” he said. “Many of our members went personally to Japan to lend their support. Those efforts have not gone unnoticed by the Japanese government and its people.”

Following are some of the comments from leading Japanese companies in yesterday’s media reports:

Asahi Newspaper – 2 daily editions with more than 11.3 million circulation

With the headline “Can U.S. beef regain the market share?” the article reports Japanese retailers and gyudon chains are quite eager to expand purchase of U.S. beef products. Retailer Ito Yokado comments: “The demand for U.S. beef is stronger than that for Aussie beef due to the more tender taste containing moderate fat. We would like to increase purchases.”

Yoshinoya also welcomes the news, saying: “U.S. beef is indispensable for the original taste of our gyudon dishes.”

Mainichi Newspaper – 2 daily editions with more than 5.5 million circulation

The newspaper quoted retailer Ito Yokado: “(Older cattle produce) better quality of beef with more fat compared with under-20-moa cattle, and it is more suitable for Japanese consumers’ taste. We would like to actively promote (U.S. beef).”

Restaurant chain Yoshinoya is quoted as saying: “(U.S. beef makes a) good combination with onion and Japanese stock soup, and improves the taste of our gyudon products.”

Yomiuri Newspaper – 2 daily editions with more than 13.5 million circulation

The article also introduces positive comments by Yoshinoya as well as retailer Daiei (“It will expand beef distribution and activate the Japanese market.”), Seven & I Holdings (“It will enable us to sell good quality meat products.”) and Izumiya (“It will offer a wider range of choices to consumers.”).

While this article did voice concerns some have about product safety, it also mentioned the belief of some that changes in the beef import guidelines could help Japan’s efforts to enter into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade negotiations.