Consumers still skeptical, U.S. beef hard sell as concern lingers, Aussies fill void

US - Michal Small has been waiting eagerly for the return of U.S. beef to Japan, but it seems the American will have to wait a while longer before the Roppongi Hills restaurants she frequents start serving the fare again.
calendar icon 5 October 2006
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"I think American beef is absolutely safe. And now is the best time to buy it because there's so much scrutiny," said Small, who lives in Tokyo's Minami-Azabu district and comes from a family in Oklahoma that raises cattle for consumption by them and their friends.

But while Small may be eager to bite into a thick U.S. steak, the Japanese public's mistrust stemming from the risk of mad cow disease doesn't appear to be waning.

The fact that there aren't enough cows meeting the current standard of import -- under 21 months old with at-risk parts removed -- leads to a limited supply and resultant higher prices, another reason for the slow return to Japan.

Businesses have other reasons as well. Australian beef now has a strong presence, having filled the vacuum left by the recently lifted ban on U.S. beef. Many restaurants have found ways to do without U.S. beef, and its return offers few incentives to go back.

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