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Audio: Buyers Show Strong Enthusiasm for U.S. Lamb’s Return to Japan

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On Nov. 28, 2018, the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) launched U.S. lamb’s return to the Japanese market with an educational seminar and tasting event in Tokyo that attracted more than 200 chefs, importers, purveyors, trade media and other key food industry professionals.

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. The USMEF event was designed to showcase the unique flavor profile and other positive attributes of U.S. lamb, introduce menu concepts featuring a variety of lamb cuts and connect U.S. suppliers with prospective customers.

Greg Ahart, vice president of sales for Superior Farms, participated in the event and was impressed with the strong interest and enthusiasm shown for U.S. lamb. Ahart, who also serves on the American Lamb Board and the USMEF Executive Committee, notes that in addition to U.S. lamb cuts that will be enjoyed at high-end hotels and restaurants in Japan, items such as lamb shank and Denver ribs may also gain traction with Japanese consumers.

TRANSCRIPT:

Joe Schuele: U.S. lamb recently regained access to Japan after a nearly 15-year absence. The U.S. Meat Export Federation just completed its first major promotion for U.S. lamb, an educational seminar and tasting event in Tokyo. Greg Ahart, vice president of sales for Superior Farms, participated in the event, and he has more details in this USMEF report:

Greg Ahart:Turnout at the seminar was extremely impressive; the enthusiasm was even more so. After a 15-year absence the amount of excitement and interest present in the room both from the educational side of it as well as the presentation of the product and the tasting — it was truly something to be part of. I was completely blown away by the volume and genuineness of the interest that was being expressed. The credibility that U.S. pork and U.S. beef has in this marketplace is really beneficial as we look at re-introducing lamb, and some of the more senior meat people have experience with lamb from pre-15 years ago when it was removed from this marketplace but for the younger crowd that was there that don’t have that historical knowledge, just the overall credibility that the other two high quality proteins bring really helps with the perception of quality in the American product.

Joe Schuele: In addition to lamb cuts targeted for fine dining, Ahart feels other U.S. lamb cuts could gain traction with Japanese consumers:

Greg Ahart:Touring the retail landscape, there’s a lot of items that are more consumer friendly than I anticipated or they’re more consumer ready, so I really think as we as an industry push towards making lamb easier for the consumer, making it so that there’s less of a hurdle of knowledge and experience with it, I do think there’s applicability for those items here as well. Items like lamb shank, Denver ribs – there’s some items like that that really will have some applicability and interest here as we build on the enthusiasm from the seminar.

Joe Schuele: For more information, please visit USMEF.org. For the U.S. Meat Export Federation, I’m Joe Schuele.

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The U.S. Meat Export Federation (www.USMEF.org) is the trade association responsible for developing international markets for the U.S. red meat industry. It is funded by USDA; the beef, pork, lamb, corn and soybean checkoff programs, as well as its members representing nine industry sectors: beef/veal producing & feeding, pork producing & feeding, lamb producing & feeding, packing & processing, purveying & trading, oilseeds producing, feedgrains producing, farm organizations and supply & service organizations.