A team of Texas cattle producers recently traveled to Japan to educate several different sectors of the Japanese food industry about U.S. beef barbecue and to participate in U.S. beef promotional events. Funding for the promotional activities was provided by the Beef Checkoff Program and the USDA Market Access Program (MAP).
The Texas delegation was composed of Austin Brown III, vice chairman of the Texas Beef Council (TBC), Jason Bagley, TBC senior manager for beef quality and export, Ross Wilson, president and chief executive officer of the Texas Cattle Feeders Association (TCFA) and Tom McDonald, TCFA chairman and vice president of environmental affairs for JBS Five Rivers Cattle Feeding. The group was accompanied by Greg Hanes, USMEF assistant vice president for international marketing and programs.
While in Tokyo, the delegation visited the U.S. Embassy and attended a marketing presentation at the office of USMEF-Japan. The team visited upscale Japanese department stores that carry beef products and met with U.S. beef packer representatives in the region.
“It’s very beneficial when we have the opportunity to bring producers to key markets like Japan.” said Hanes. “Not only is it a great educational experience for the producers, but it’s really an exciting way for consumers to personally connect with U.S. beef.”
One of the U.S. beef promotional events was designed to promote U.S. beef and California wine as a part of holiday menus. It was held at the Toyosu CAFÉ;HAUS, a popular café in Tokyo that is designed to feel like a combination restaurant and home kitchen. The event targeted leading Japanese bloggers who had to apply to attend. Demand for the event far exceeded the seating capacity, so only the top 50 bloggers with the largest reach were selected to participate.
As part of the blogger event, two dishes were prepared by well-known cooking instructor Rika Yukimasa – a U.S. beef butter steak and beef stew made with red wine. Yukimasa explained the positive attributes of U.S. beef while offering cooking tips. She also introduced several California wines and explained which wines are best for pairing with U.S. beef dishes.
The Texas cattlemen gave the blogger group an overview on the state’s beef industry and took questions from the audience. They also served smoked U.S. beef brisket, a dish that drew very favorable reactions.
“This event combined great U.S. beef, outstanding California wine and quality educational information from both a famous local chef and from the Texas cattlemen,” said USMEF Japan Senior Marketing Director Takemichi Yamashoji. “What a unique opportunity to bring such diverse information to Japanese consumers, and allow them to hear directly from the source.”
Participants noted that they enjoyed the tasting portion of the event and very much appreciated the opportunity to speak directly with American cattlemen about U.S. beef and barbecue cooking techniques. The event generated multiple Facebook posts and blog articles that included photos of the speakers and food served. The articles focused on the outstanding quality and flavor of U.S. beef and highlighted the information about beef production that the participants learned through their interaction with Texas cattle producers.
The Texas delegation also attended a U.S. beef yakiniku seminar. Yakiniku is a popular style of dining in Japan that features grilled meat, and nearly 70 buyers for Japanese yakiniku restaurants – including company presidents and other top executives – participated in the event.
Yamashoji kicked off the seminar with a discussion of U.S. beef production and an overview of current market conditions. He introduced a revised version of the American Beef Yakiniku Guidebook, which includes useful ideas and tips for yakiniku businesses.
A cutting demonstration was conducted by meat consultant Nobuhide Kemi of MAO International. He demonstrated how to make the most of the underutilized cuts such as the top blade muscle and plate finger.
After Bagley gave a presentation on the history of Texas barbecue and outlined several serving methods, the team served barbecue ribs to attendees. This drew an enthusiastic response, with one participant saying he was inspired by the “low and slow” cooking method and views it as an intriguing option for his yakiniku restaurant. Members of the Texas team were also interviewed by several members of the Japanese trade media in attendance.
“This trip was impressive on two fronts,” Bagley said. “First, it was very exciting to talk about Texas barbecue to Japanese consumers and buyers. We had the chance to educate them about the cooking methods we use and explain how to best utilize the flavor of the meat. It was really fun to see people experience Texas barbecue for the first time. It was also a great opportunity to observe the USMEF staff in action. The Texas Beef Council is looking forward to working with USMEF in the future to help build the U.S. beef brand in markets like Japan – maybe with a little Texas flair!”
Following these events, the Texas delegation also met with the Japanese Barbecue Association and visited several barbecue establishments in Tokyo that feature U.S. beef.