Japan has been increasing its purchases of U.S. beef, and two Iowa beef producers just returned from a trip to ensure Japan keeps Iowa beef near the top of their sourcing list. Daryl Strohbehn of Boone and Dean Black of Somers were part of an Iowa Meat Trade Mission to Japan, Nov. 5-11, 2011.
Strohbehn and Black represent different areas of the beef checkoff program. Strohbehn, who raises seedstock, is a director on the Iowa Beef Industry Council, and Black, a cattle feeder, is one of Iowa's representatives on the national Cattlemen's Beef Board. They were part of an Iowa trade team that included Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and representatives from the Iowa Economic Development Authority, the Iowa Pork Producers Association, and the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
How soon will Japan do away with 21-month age restriction on cattle?
In September, Japan's imports of beef were up 7.4% in volume (12,188 metric tons) and 18.1% in value ($69.5 million) from a year ago. "The Japanese meat industry is proud of their tradition of supplying a healthy and high quality beef product to their customers and find that U.S. beef fills that need," says Strohbehn. "We visited with high level executives of the four major Japanese meat companies and they all look forward to increasing sales with U.S. beef suppliers. These Japanese companies are analyzing their marketing plans to expand U.S. beef sales if and when the 21-month age restriction is changed."
Japan has required that U.S. beef imports be from cattle younger than 21 months since discovering one cow with BSE in the U.S. in December, 2003.
Japanese importers and beef retailers hopeful of a change to 30 months
"Lack of supply of U.S. beef was also a consistent comment from the four major Japanese companies," says Black. "Limitations on age under 21 months make it difficult to provide U.S. beef throughout the year. Importers and retailers are very hopeful that the change to 30 months will allow them to increase purchases of U.S. beef. Japan has a population of more than 127 million people who have been increasing their taste for beef."
Northey adds, "This trade promotion trip was an opportunity to continue to promote Iowa beef with a key trading partner. Japan has been a great market for U.S. farmers as they appreciate the high quality, corn-fed beef we produce." Partial funding for the trade mission was provided by the $1-per-head beef checkoff.