To promote U.S. red meat and provide new ideas on how to present and market meat in retail settings, USMEF recently led a team of Japanese pork buyers from Nippon Ham on visits to leading retailers and meat processing companies in Iowa. The visit also included stops at American specialty meat shops and a look at a system of dry-aging meat that was recently installed at a major food retailer.
Funding support for the visit was provided by the Iowa Corn Promotion Board.
Nippon Ham, a major meat packing company and largest meat processor in Japan, has more than two dozen slaughter and processing plants in its home country. The company began as a producer of hams and sausages, but has grown and broadened its operations to offer various food ingredients and products, including many processed meats and specialty meat brands sold in several countries around the globe.
The Nippon Ham team, led by USMEF-Japan Marketing Director Satoshi Kato, began its visit in Illinois, where it toured Chicago’s Paulina Meat Market, a traditional Midwestern market, along with two of Chicago’s fastest-growing retail food outlets — Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.
The team was given a look at meat processing facilities, visiting Farmland Foods in Crete, Nebraska, Tyson Foods in Perry, Iowa, and Cargill Meat Solutions in Ottumwa, Iowa.
“As part of the plant tours, we were able to see and discuss possible new pork cuts, like back ribs and special loin cuts,” explained Kato. “This is very helpful, the buyers receiving in-person information. It will help the effort to sell more U.S. pork products.”
Retail food store visits in Iowa included Whole Foods, Walmart and Hy-Vee in West Des Moines. A visit to Fareway Grocers in Ankeny provided the Japanese team with a look at a full-service meat counter inside of a retail grocery. And at the Hy-Vee in Ankeny, the team was introduced to that store’s new dry-aged meat system and meat case. According to Kato, the in-store system of aging meat was of great interest to the Japanese team, which is always looking for new and interesting ways to present meat in retail settings.
“For most members of the team, this was the first time to visit to the U.S. and their first opportunity to visit a U.S. pork plant,” said Kato. “We also had a dinner meeting with Iowa Corn Board members in Des Moines, and we appreciate their support for the team and the opportunity to exchange information.”
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