Audio: Tastings, Educational Programs Planned to Reintroduce U.S. Lamb in Japan

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U.S. lamb has officially regained access to Japan, a growing market that set a new value record of $168 million for lamb imports in 2017, up 26 percent from 2016. While a majority of those lamb imports came from Australia and New Zealand, U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) Japan Director Takemichi Yamashoji says U.S. lamb’s quality and flavor will win over many Japanese consumers who in the past were very receptive to grain-fed lamb. Yamashoji adds that USMEF’s early efforts in Japan will focus on promoting U.S. lamb through tastings and educational programs for chefs and other foodservice professionals at high-end hotels and restaurants, which are expected to be the biggest users of U.S. lamb.


Ralph Loos: U.S. lamb recently regained access to Japan, already the leading value market for U.S. beef and pork. In this U.S. Meat Export Federation report, Takemichi Yamashoji, USMEF director in Japan, explains that while the market is relatively small, U.S. lamb’s quality is expected to win over many Japanese consumers.

Takemichi Yamashoji: The Japanese lamb market is about 15,000 metric tons per year, so compared to pork and beef, the lamb market is relatively small. Also, the lamb market in Japan is dominated by Australia and New Zealand, mostly Australia. So I think U.S. lamb will make a bigger lamb market in Japan. Also, U.S. lamb is totally different in the quality. U.S. lamb is very high quality, so I think our target in Japan is high-end hotel and high-end foodservice, that is our main target.

Ralph Loos: The first step to re-grow what was once a solid market will be sharing information on the quality attributes of U.S. lamb, Yamashoji explained.

Takemichi Yamashoji: We are planning on having seminars and tasting sessions, inviting U.S. lamb packers and also Japanese users, mainly high-end chefs. The point is to provide information about U.S. lamb. The reason is that for so many years there was no U.S. lamb in the market. There is very limited information about it.

Ralph Loos: For more information, please visit For the U.S. Meat Export Federation, I’m Ralph Loos.

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The U.S. Meat Export Federation ( 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.