Posts Tagged ‘beef’

Fast-food joints hail relaxed rules for U.S. beef, signal end of the world

Saturday, September 15th, 2012

Earlier this month a panel of experts recommended to the health ministry that it relax standards restricting imports of beef from the United States, Canada, France and the Netherlands for animals that are more than 20 months old. The panel suggests that cattle up to 30 months old be allowed for import and sale in Japan.

Get it while it’s cheap: Yoshinoya outlet in Roppongi, Tokyo

The restrictions were implemented in 2005 after BSE, or “mad cow disease,” was discovered in some livestock in the U.S. in 2003. Between 2003 and 2005 beef imports from the U.S. were banned. When the restriction went into effect, the U.S. objected, saying there was no conclusive proof that the age of the animal has anything to do with whether or not it can get BSE, and in any case, the incidence of the disease was extremely small and statistically insignificant. The government panel seems to have agreed with this opinion by saying that the age of the cow has no relationship “to people’s health.” They will give their official evaluation to the health ministry some time this fall, and the regulations should be relaxed by early next year.

Retailers and restaurateurs, especially fast food chains, are happy with the panel’s decision since it means they can start selling more U.S. beef, which is very popular among consumers here because of its higher fat content. More than 60 percent of the beef sold in supermarkets now is Australian, with 20 percent coming from the U.S. and the remainder from domestic producers. Though the American dollar is, for the moment at least, worth less in Japan than the Australian dollar, U.S. beef is more expensive than Australian beef due to the restrictions. In fact, the high yen is the only reason U.S. beef is at all affordable in Japan right now. By limiting U.S. beef to animals less than 21 months old, imports are seasonal and thus more expensive. Only about 20 percent of all cattle in the U.S. is slaughtered at less than 21 months, while 90 percent is less than 31 months. Consequently, almost all the animals slaughtered in the U.S. can be exported to Japan after the new year.

Continue reading about U.S. beef imorts →

Summer gift season tests Miyazaki meat rep

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Miyazaki beef corner at Takashimaya department store in Nihonbashi

Miyazaki beef corner at Takashimaya department store in Nihonbashi

So far there hasn’t been any severe retail fallout from the foot and mouth disease crisis that has struck the livestock industry in Miyazaki Prefecture. However, department stores and major supermarkets are reportedly worried about the upcoming chugen (summer gift) season, which starts in June. For department stores, at least, chugen is one of the most important times of the year, and high-grade beef like that which Miyazaki is famous for plays a significant role. Department stores are having a hard enough time as it is, without the added burden of rumors that might cut into the sales of its biggest single money maker.

Some are taking a proactive approach. Not only are several department stores prominently displaying Miyazaki beef (and pork, too), but they’re also setting up donation boxes so that customers can contribute small change to the prefecture’s ranchers and pig farmers, many of whom have been devastated by the disease.

Takashimaya in Nihonbashi is currently having a Miyazaki Fair that isn’t limited to beef though beef seems to be the main attraction. According to a report in the Asahi Shimbun, the first day the beef counter opened, all 60 packages sold out within three hours. The proprietor quickly restocked. One reason for the good sales was the price: ¥661 for 100 grams, which is quite low for high-end beef. But there was another reason. As one 75-year-old woman told the newspaper, “I came to realize that the beef must be very good because Miyazaki sends calves to all the other major beef-producing areas of Japan.” In other words, all the dire news from the prefecture in the past couple of weeks also promoted the area’s reputation as the birthplace of Japan’s homegrown luxury beef industry.

But there is still concern. Though consuming meat from animals with foot and mouth disease is not harmful to humans and no meat from contaminated animals is being sold anyway, there is a feeling among some retailers that they have to handle the situation carefully. Supermarket chain Ito-Yokado says it will not make any kind of point-of-sale indications that “Miyazaki meat is safe” since it will only draw attention to the situation. And the closer to the source of the problem, the bigger the fear, it seems. Daimaru department store in Hakata, Fukuoka Prefecture, has already reported a drop in summer gift pre-orders for beef, and several restaurants who specialize in Miyazaki beef say that some people who made reservations before the outbreak of the disease have since cancelled them.

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