July 13, 2013

Off to Sendai by Bullet Train

A Wagyu beef carcass is auctioned off at the Sendai meat market.
We saw one carcass command a $12,000 price.

 SENDAI REGION, JAPAN (Friday, July 12, 2013)—Up very early to catch the bullet train north to Sendai, about 180 miles from Tokyo.  Some interesting countryside to see—rice fields, mountains, rural areas—as we sped along at some 160 mph!

First stop this morning was a packing plant that was damaged in the earthquake in 2011.  During that year, their slaughter rate dropped by 50% due to structural damage, followed by the radiation scare a few weeks later.
Workers at Hannan prepare short plate strips
for ready-to-cook meals.

We had a rare opportunity to be invited into a Wagyu beef processing facility.  Consider that those of us promoting American beef are actually their competitors, so this was quite a coup to be shown around the plant.  (Thank you, Yama!)

This plant processes a high volume of Wagyu beef, and we were privileged to witness that morning's auction of Wagyu carcasses—fetching as much as $12,000 US for a 950 lb carcass!  The plant processes 23,000 head per year—not all of it Wagyu. 

The Sendai region is known for its Wagyu beef and has established a brand called Sendai Beef.   They say the secret is the "Miyagi nature"—the cool, clear water of the region, coupled with feeding straw leads to the highly marbled meat.  

Wagyu beef is graded on a scale from A1 to A5—with A5 being the highest quality.

After the Japanese BSE incident in 2001, the Japanese government required that all cattle—100%—be tested for BSE.   That changed this month, as the testing is now required only for cattle 48 months or older.  Since most Wagyu beef is 30 month, this has eliminated the need for BSE testing for this product.

Hundreds of beef tongues
thaw at the Hannan food processing
The next stop was Hannan, a food processing company, where our host greeted us wearing a "Nebraska" shirt and socks with stars and stripes.  A real card, this guy!

Hannan specializes in a wide variety of food products.  We saw them cutting short plate into strips and packaging the beef along with vegetable and sauce for a ready-made meal.   Hannan was a partner with USMEF in providing the bento box meals to the disaster victims in 2011.

They are also huge purveyors of beef tongue, processing 3,000 tongues per day.  That's right—per day!

We headed toward the coast, where we saw some of the damage and rebuilding that has occurred since the earthquake and tsunami in 2011.   Trees are leaning every which way from the force of the water—and their branches are stripped some forty to fifty feet up from the ground.  Much rebuilding going on, but you can still see considerable damage.

Yama (left) and John Hinners from USMEF talk with
Mr. Eiichi Nakayma, managing director of the
Higashiyama Korean barbecue restaurant chain.

Friday night we had Korean barbecue at Higashiyama restaurant, one of a 40+ chain that has worked closely with USMEF to offer their customers U.S. beef and pork.  Mr. Eiichi Nakayama, managing director for the company, joined us for dinner.   The company has been incorporating more U.S. beef into their dishes.

You may note that there is no information about what we did Friday afternoon.  That experience merits a blog post all its own—and will be coming soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment