Producers from the U.S. beef, pork, corn and soybean industries traveled to Japan this week for meetings with key players in the Japanese meat trade. Two members of the delegation – Dean Black of the Iowa Beef Industry Council and Wayne Humphreys of the Iowa Corn Promotion Board – gave presentations on U.S. farming practices at a USMEF seminar in Tokyo, which was attended by more than 600 meat buyers from across all sectors of the Japanese food industry. Black and Humphries explained the history and development of their family farm operations, sharing their deep passion for agriculture and commitment to producing safe and wholesome food. Dr. Robert Thaler, professor and extension specialist with the South Dakota State University Department of Animal Science, also offered details on feed formulations used by the U.S. pork and beef industries.
“Customers in Japan and across the world want to know the details of how U.S. meat is produced,” said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. “So this seminar focused on soil sustainability, the seed used to produce feedgrains, and the specific feeding formulations and processes that allow the U.S. industry to produce such high-quality meat.”
Seng noted that in addition to the expertise this diverse group of producers contributed to the seminar, their presence also reminded buyers of the family-centered nature of the U.S. industry and conveyed a personal commitment to producing high-quality meat products in a responsible manner.
“The personal experience of the individual U.S. producer is a very positive selling point for our meat products,” he said. “USMEF is proud to extol their commitment to quality and safety, their commitment to the land – and ultimately their commitment to the customer. These genuine qualities definitely come across in our meetings with buyers, allowing the U.S. industry to establish a very high level of trust.”
Opening remarks at the seminar were made by Seng and David Miller, minister-counselor for agricultural affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo. USMEF Economist Erin Borror presented a beef and pork market overview and Joel Haggard, senior vice president for the Asia Pacific, addressed China’s emerging influence on Asian meat markets. A presentation on USMEF’s current beef promotions in Japan was provided by USMEF-Tokyo Senior Marketing Director Takemichi Yamashoji, while USMEF pork promotions were summarized by Marketing Manager Satoshi Kato.
Following the seminar, buyers were welcomed to an evening tasting session by USMEF Secretary-Treasurer Bruce Schmoll, a soybean and corn producer from Claremont, Minnesota, and Steve Hanson of the Nebraska Beef Council.
Hanson, who owns a cow-calf operation, feedlot and corn and wheat farm near Elsie, Nebraska, offered his thoughts on the event and the future prospects for U.S. meat in Japan.
“The seminar was extremely well-conducted by USMEF, and our entire experience in Japan was very informative,” he said. “It was especially interesting to see the variety of uses for U.S. meat and the different ways it is prepared in Japan. Consumers there are definitely interested in high-end, high-quality meats, and U.S. products are very well-received. For our industry, the future looks extremely bright in Japan.”
Special guests at the tasting session included Ambassador Darci Vetter, chief agricultural negotiator with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and staff members from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.
Other members of the producer delegation visiting Japan were: Scott McGregor, Iowa Soybean Association; Patrick Fitzsimmons, Minnesota Pork Board; David Bruntz, Nebraska Corn Board and Russell Vering, Nebraska Pork Producers Association.
Funding for the seminar was provided by the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) and state corn checkoff programs.
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