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US Beef Making Inroads In Japan

29 September 2009

JAPAN - While access for US beef remains limited in Japan, consumers in the former No. 1 export market are more ready than anytime in recent years to chow down on American steaks and beef bowls, according to surveys conducted by USMEF.

Over the past three years, the number of consumers who feel “extremely safe” or “somewhat safe” in consuming US beef have more than doubled from 12.1 per cent in 2006 to 30.1 per cent in August 2009, according to surveys commissioned by USMEF and conducted by Macromill.

Those consumers who feel “not very safe” or “not safe at all” have declined from 62.5 per cent to 30.8 per cent, while the balance have no firm opinion.

“The message of the quality, safety and wholesomeness of US beef is resonating with Japanese consumers,” said Takemichi Yamashoji, USMEF-Japan senior marketing director.

“Our programmes are geared toward reinforcing these positive perceptions among consumers and the trade, and the trend is very positive.”

The survey revealed that Japanese consumers look to certain outside information sources to reinforce their confidence in US beef. When asked what would encourage them to buy U.S. beef, the survey participants cited several leading factors:

  • 41 per cent said the approval of the safety of U.S. beef by the Government of Japan
  • 23.4 per cent said U.S. Government safety guarantees
  • 22.1 per cent said safety approvals offered by specialists and celebrities
  • 20.5 per cent said safety explanations offered by US producers
  • 14.4 per cent said the serving of US beef in well-known restaurants and hotels

Yamashoji noted that USMEF’s programmes are targeted toward addressing these areas. For example, through USMEF’s efforts, the historic four-star Hotel Okura in Tokyo recently returned US beef to its restaurant menu. And in a special promotion with York Benimaru, USMEF developed a set of advertisements that featured photos of the retail chain’s meat buyer and his personal endorsement of U.S. beef to the customers of the chain’s 160 stores.

Last fall, USMEF-Japan hosted a scientific seminar addressing the risks of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in beef, led by a top global BSE expert, for an audience of more than 80 Japanese government officials, meat industry representatives, media and opinion leaders. A risk management expert stated that there is virtually no risk to Japanese consumers from BSE.

Last month, 100 Japanese families were selected from among 4,000 families that applied to participate in a USMEF barbecue hosted in Tokyo by four representatives from the Nebraska Soybean Board (NSB). The NSB delegation grilled steaks with the families, visited a Japanese cooking school and toured meat industry facilities in the country during their visit.

“Japanese consumers enjoy meeting the producers behind the products they serve their families,” said Yamashoji.

“Talking with typical American meat and grain producers puts a face on US beef and pork and reinforces the message of quality.”

TheCattleSite News Desk


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