Japan was the center of attention for the U.S. red meat industry last week as more than 600 Japanese meat buyers gathered in Tokyo with U.S. Government officials, researchers, and more than 30 American agriculture leaders for a USMEF seminar and tasting session for U.S. beef and pork funded with support provided by USDA’s Market Access Program (MAP), the Beef Checkoff Program, Colorado Beef Council, Nebraska Beef Council, Nebraska Corn Board, and the Ohio Corn Marketing Program.
Many of the Japanese meat buyers and industry observers in attendance were not totally familiar with the full array of American red meat products, but the program’s educational component – combined with the ability to try product samples at the tasting session – offered an in-depth look into the U.S. beef industry.
“The seminar and tasting session served a number of strategic purposes,” said USMEF Chairman-elect Mark Jagels, a fourth-generation farmer from south-central Nebraska. “First, it was an ideal opportunity to bring buyers and sellers together to see the best that the U.S. beef industry has to offer.
“The program also gave our business partners in Japan a window into our American agricultural community,” said Jagels. “It is important that they can meet and speak with the producers in America who supply high-quality U.S. beef, as well as the farmers who grow the nourishing feed. This event brought all that together.”
To build on this opportunity, a dozen U.S. red meat suppliers and processors displayed products and offered samples to help familiarize attendees with the quality of the beef products as well as their versatility in Japanese cuisine.
Supporting the seminar were presentations on the U.S. livestock market outlook by University of Missouri professor Ron Plain, and an overview of Japan’s brand marketing and consumer trends by Reiko Ogata of Dentsu, the leading Japanese advertising and public relations agency.
David C. Miller, minister-counselor for Agricultural Affairs from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, opened the conference along with USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng.
The Japanese audience also was provided with a unique opportunity that is not often seen in the U.S.: presentations on the same panel by the leadership of both the U.S. beef and pork industries: Karen Richter, president of the National Pork Board, and Weldon Wynn, chairman of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board. USMEF’s Jagels also addressed the seminar participants.
“I have had ranching and farming in my blood all my life, and also raise soybeans, wheat and rice in addition to cattle,” said Wynn of his Arkansas operation in his comments to the seminar participants. “This ranch and farm is our business and our life and, as such, we strive to provide you with the safest, best quality products available anywhere. The same products that my family produces and enjoys can also be enjoyed by all of you in Japan.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Richter regarding her family’s Minnesota-based pork operation.
“Our family raises 600 head of market hogs and works together with a neighboring family to raise 3,000 head of gilts for breeding stock,” she said. “We also raise corn and soybeans. The farm has been in the family for four generations. I want to assure you that I, along with my fellow pork producers throughout the United States, am dedicated to providing our friends here in Japan with the best pork products you can buy.”
Jagels reiterated that Japan has been a key agricultural export market for the United States since USMEF’s founding in 1976.
“This is the first country where USMEF developed a permanent office outside of the U.S.,” said Jagels. “Even after 40 years, I know that the USMEF team here continues to find new opportunities and new ways to partner with our friends here in Japan.”