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Japan Agriculture and Livestock Group Visits USMEF for Information Exchange

Published: Friday, September 16th, 2016

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A decades-long relationship between USMEF and Japan’s Agriculture and Livestock Industries Corporation (ALIC) continued this week with a meeting in Denver that provided the Japanese visitors with updates on U.S. beef and pork production, information about USDA grading systems and insights into retail meat operations and merchandising.

This meeting – the 30th between USMEF and ALIC – took on additional significance in that it marked the first visit to the U.S. by ALIC President Wataru Miyasaka, who assumed the role in October 2015. USMEF arranged the trip to give Miyasaka a “farm-to-fork” look at the U.S. red meat industry. Along with presentations by USMEF staff and retail tours highlighting American meat culture and merchandising, the itinerary included stops at feedlots, packing plants and restaurants.

“When I joined ALIC I was aware of the importance of the relationship we have with USMEF, and I looked forward to coming to the U.S. to meet with its staff and learn how the industry works here in the U.S.,” said Miyasaka. “The American meat industry has really grown in the Japanese market and USMEF does a good job promoting beef and pork there. As has been the case for many, many years, there’s a lot we can learn from each other.”

Miyasaka noted that he and members of the ALIC team – Chief Executive Director Hirojuki Kobayashi, Senior Counselor Akio Tamai and Shinichi Igawa, a representative of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) – began its U.S. visit in New York with tours of supermarkets that import Japanese Wagyu beef. The exchange between USMEF and ALIC is mutually beneficial, said USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng, who credits ALIC with playing a critical role in the stability of Japan’s agricultural sector.

“ALIC and USMEF both play crucial roles on behalf of the respective industries they represent,” said Seng. “Whether it’s information on product or supply and demand, whether it’s the retail or foodservice sector, each organization strives to represent the true reality of a market. That’s one reason we’ve had such a positive relationship for so many years.”

Economist Erin Borror led USMEF’s presentation, offering an update on the global red meat market and outlining the role USMEF plays in exporting U.S. red meat. Senior Vice President for Marketing Dan Halstrom, Assistant Vice President for International Marketing and Programs Greg Hanes and Senior Vice President for Trade Access Thad Lively helped describe USMEF’s latest in-market activities in Japan and gave a wide-ranging overview of production and processing practices in the U.S. beef and pork industries. Senior Vice President Paul Clayton and Market Access and Export Services Director Travis Arp covered USDA’s grading system and discussed the marketplace for beef.

At Marczyk Fine Foods, a neighborhood grocery in Denver, ALIC officials examine how beef and pork cuts are presented. (L. to r.) Hiroyuki Kobayashi, ALIC chief executive director; Takemichi Yamashoji, USMEF Japan director; and Wataru Miyasaka, ALIC president

At Marczyk Fine Foods, a neighborhood grocery in Denver, ALIC officials examine how beef and pork cuts are presented. (L. to r.) Hiroyuki Kobayashi, ALIC chief executive director; Takemichi Yamashoji, USMEF Japan director; and Wataru Miyasaka, ALIC president

Following the meeting at USMEF headquarters, Hanes and USMEF Japan Director Takemichi Yamashoji led the ALIC team to small specialty meat shops and large retail supermarkets to give the Japanese a look at how meat is merchandised and displayed.

“The ALIC officials were very interested to see how each size of retail store attracts consumers to its meat products,” said Yamashoji. “We began by visiting a very small neighborhood store, where the butcher explained the dry-aging and wet-aging processes, and then the effort to present the meat to his customers. We then went to a large supermarket to see how the big U.S. chains display beef and pork. The range and variety of products, from fresh cuts to prepared dishes and convenience items, are much different than in Japan.”

USMEF and ALIC discuss industry information and market conditions at a meeting in USMEF’s Denver office

USMEF and ALIC discuss industry information and market conditions at a meeting in USMEF’s Denver office