July 9, 2013

U.S. Beef Positioned for Success in Japan

Dale Spencer inspects beef on display at the Seiyu supermarket in Tokyo.
TOKYO, JAPAN (Tuesday, July 9)—Sumikin Bussan is a major importer of U.S. beef, working with Greater Omaha Pack, Tyson and others to bring American beef to Japanese consumers.  They are very excited about the change in regulations allowing beef 30 months or younger into the marketplace.

During a one-hour discussion in the Sumikin Bussan offices today, their representatives spoke enthusiastically about U.S. beef.  They also agreed with what we heard from USMEF officials:  It's
"Tim" (left) and "Lucky" of Sumikin Bussan
talk about their imports of U.S. beef into Japan.
going to take some time and effort to re-educate Japanese consumers about the value and taste of American beef.  "The proof is in the taste," said "Tim", the American beef manager for the company.

The importers were especially interested to hear from the U.S. team about projections for the U.S. corn crop—both production and price.   They said they were looking for "what is true", but even our group couldn't agree on what will or might happen.

If the record corn acres and record harvests (14 billion) are to be believed, then corn prices could fall as much as $2, leading to lower feed costs and more competitive beef prices.

But then again, maybe not...

After this meeting, we visited a Seiyu store, which is Wal-Mart's brand presence in Japan.  (And yes, they do wear blue vests!)   We met the person responsible for buying beef not only for this store, but for all 372 Seiyu stores in Japan.  (Obviously a man we want on our side...)  He, too, is optimistic about the potential for U.S. beef in his stores, seeing it as a price-competitive, high-quality option for his customers.
Tim Scheer (right) talks with the beef buyer for
Seiyu stores (left), while an Oregon beef producer
listens in.

Beef displays in Japan are interesting in that the portions are smaller and very consistent in terms of size.  U.S. beef is being displayed at the Seiyu store we visited, some with the "We Care" sticker, which is part of the USMEF campaign.

We also saw Wagyu beef on display—highly marbled beef that is typically higher priced than U.S. product.

We observed Japanese consumers carefully perusing the beef products on display, inspecting several for appearance, quality, price, etc.  Not much different than American grocery shoppers.

Japanese Wagyu beef is highly marbled.

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