USMEF tries to capitalize on the meat boom in Japan
Following the detection of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the United States in December 2003, Japan was closed to U.S. lamb for nearly 15 years before reopening in July of this year. To promote US lamb in the Japanese market USMEF organized an event to showcase the unique flavor profile and other positive attributes of the product, introduce menu concepts featuring a variety of lamb cuts and connect suppliers with prospective customers.
The turnout at the seminar was extremely impressive, and the enthusiasm was even more so,” said Greg Ahart, vice president of sales for Superior Farms. Ahart also serves on the American Lamb Board and the USMEF Executive Committee. "After a 15-year absence from the marketplace, seeing the amount of excitement and interest that was present in the room – both from the educational side, as well as when we proceeded to the presentation of products and the tasting – this event was truly something to be part of.
The credibility that US pork and beef have in this marketplace is very beneficial as we look at reintroducing lamb. Some of the more senior buyers in Japan have experience with US lamb from before the market closure. But for the younger crowd at this event, which doesn’t have that historical knowledge, the reputation of the other two high-quality proteins really helps generate interest in American lamb,” he explained.
USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom said US lamb now has a long-awaited opportunity to capitalize on Japan’s strong demand for high-quality red meat products.
“The seminar and tasting confirmed that there is a lot of enthusiasm for the reentry of US lamb into Japan,” Halstrom said. “We are in the midst of a ‘niku boom’ (meat boom) in Japan and there are many developing and emerging concepts, especially in the foodservice sector, for which high-quality US lamb is a natural option.”
Japan’s imports of lamb and sheep meat are trending higher. Through October, imports in 2018 totaled 21,151 tonnes (up 11% from a year ago) valued at $171.2 million (up 20% and already a full-year record). Australian lamb currently holds about 60% market share, with New Zealand lamb capturing nearly 40%. Lamb and sheep meat enter Japan at zero duty.
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