From cattle ranches in Wyoming to a trendy Denver steakhouse and retail meat cases in San Francisco, USMEF gave a team of Japanese food journalists a close look at how U.S. beef is produced, marketed and sold. The Japanese media team, which was funded by the Beef Checkoff Program, also acquired insights into the attributes that set U.S. beef apart from its competitors.
“The food media in Japan wield great influence over the country’s consumers, so we feel it’s important to share with journalists how U.S. beef is produced, and how restaurants and retailers in the U.S. sell it,” explained Tazuko Hijikata, USMEF-Tokyo consumer affairs senior manager, who led the team on its U.S. visit. “Consumers in Japan have a lot of interest in the food they eat, meaning they want to know where it came from, how it was produced – the story behind the cut of meat. We shared that story with these journalists knowing that they will share it with consumers back in Japan.”
Writers and photographers from three magazines — Domani, Shokuraku and Buono — were part of the team, which made its first stop at the King Ranch, a family cattle operation just outside Cheyenne and its second at the Petsch Ranch, a fourth-generation family cattle operation near Meriden, Wyoming.
“It was a great opportunity to see how cattle are raised, what the animals eat and meet some of the people who are responsible for the production of U.S. beef,” said Hijikata.
In Denver, the team had a behind the scenes look at the restaurant business by Troy Guard, owner and chef at Guard and Grace Steakhouse. Guard, who once lived in Japan and owns several different types of restaurants in Colorado, said Guard and Grace specializes in serving U.S. red meat. He explained several U.S. beef dishes and how each is prepared. Guard also described the flavor and juiciness of beef produced in the U.S. and the advantages of marbling in U.S. grain-fed beef.
Restaurant staff at Guard and Grace handed out samples of U.S. Prime beef tartar, hangar steak, dry-aged bone-in New York strip steak and oak-fired prime rib. Guard personally presented one of his specialties: a prime rib roast seasoned, grilled and slow-roasted.
“This is a very popular cut for us and our customers really enjoy how it tastes and how tender the meat is,” Guard said. “I know from my time living there that the Japanese take food very, very seriously and they are very interested in the care that is taken of the products used to make their food.”
In San Francisco, the team saw U.S. beef cuts for sale at Lucky California, a new grocery concept that was spun off by the large Save Mart chain. Lucky California’s products reflect diverse cultures and cuisines, and the store is known for its inspirational meat case displays.
“Cultures are always looking at other countries to get new ideas for ways to sell products like meat,” said Hijikata. “Our goal is that the Japanese media team can go back home and share new ways to sell U.S. beef, and restaurants in Japan can pick up new ideas to prepare and present U.S. beef.”