USMEF Market Expo Offers Firsthand Look at Abundant Opportunities in Japan

USMEF Market Expo Offers Firsthand Look at Abundant Opportunities in Japan

The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) Market Expo, a market education program that allows producers and other USMEF members to observe international market development activities for U.S. pork and beef, concluded Friday, March 6, in Tokyo. The delegation also traveled to Shanghai, China.

The Tokyo segment was highlighted by a visit to FoodEx – Asia’s largest food exhibition. FoodEx attracts nearly 3,000 exhibitors from 80 countries, and more than 77,000 attendees over four days. The USMEF delegation came away impressed with the strong presence of U.S. pork and beef at FoodEx and the enthusiastic manner in which U.S. products are received by buyers in attendance.

“Being here at FoodEx really drives home for me of just how badly all of these suppliers want to be in the Japanese market,” said Jennifer Houston, a cattle producer from Sweetwater, Tennessee, who serves as chair of the Federation of State Beef Councils. “Japan is extremely important for them, just as it is for the U.S. meat industry, so the market is intensely competitive. But the buyers I have met with are just thrilled with U.S. beef and interested in purchasing more, which is gratifying to see.”

Her views were echoed by Karen Grant, a pork producer from Meadow Grove, Nebraska, who serves on the Nebraska Pork Producers board of directors.

“One thing I ask all the buyers I meet is, ‘Are we sending the product that you want?’” Grant said. “And every answer has been a very definite ‘Yes.’ They are very pleased with the quality of U.S. pork, and as a producer that makes me very happy.”

“U.S. producers are very proud of their product,” noted Chaley Harney, executive director of the Montana Beef Council. “And it’s wonderful for them to see U.S. beef represented so well at FoodEx and all of the commerce that’s taking place here.”

The delegation also took part in a food blogger event hosted by well-known cooking instructor Rika Yukimasa, which attracted an enthusiastic audience eager to learn about the positive attributes of U.S. beef and pork. Bloggers in attendance also had an opportunity to visit with the USMEF team about U.S. farming and ranching practices.

“Rika did a really wonderful job preparing the food and explaining her cooking techniques in a simple manner,” said Brooke Kerns, market development manager for the Iowa Corn Growers Association. “You can tell she really connects with the audience, and that makes her a great advocate for U.S. pork and beef. It was also terrific to see members of the audience visiting with our producers after the event, viewing photos of their farms and learning more about how U.S. meat is produced.”

The Market Expo team got a detailed briefing on the Japanese market by USMEF-Japan staff as well as Evan Mangino, deputy director of the USDA Agricultural Trade Office in Tokyo. These presentations included an overview of the current trade climate and the domestic food production challenges Japan is facing. Japan’s new economic partnership agreement with Australia and its ongoing trade negotiations with the European Union were also discussed.

The delegation had several opportunities to interact with meat industry professionals who are critical to the success of U.S. beef and pork in Japan, including importers, retail purchasing managers and Tokyo-based representatives of U.S. packers. These discussions focused on opportunities for further expansion of U.S. meat exports to Japan, consumers’ growing desire for transparency and detailed production information about the food products they purchase, and the impact of the recent West Coast port labor impasse on U.S. exports to Japan.

The Market Expo team also toured the largest cold storage facility in Japan, which is operated by Nippon Ham Group, a leading importer of U.S. pork and beef. The facility has a capacity of 40,000 metric tons and currently receives about 700 metric tons of meat per day. Retail visits were also on the group’s itinerary, including a tour of an AEON supermarket that was conducting U.S. pork and beef tasting demonstrations.

This year’s delegation of Market Expo participants included:

  • Dean Meyer 
    • Iowa Corn Growers Association 
    • Rock Rapids, Iowa
  • Karen Grant 
    • Nebraska Pork Producers Association 
    • Meadow Grove, Nebraska
  • Richard Schrunk 
    • Nebraska Beef Council
    • Emmet, Nebraska
  • Chaley Harney 
    • Montana Beef Council 
    • Billings, Montana
  • Brooke Kerns 
    • Iowa Corn Growers Association
    • Johnston, Iowa
  • Tony Stafford 
    • Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council
    • Jefferson City, Missouri
  • Lindsay Kuberka 
    • USDA-FAS Office of Global Analysis
    • Washington, D.C.
  • Yan Li 
    • SKK International Inc.
    • Chicago, Illinois
  • Jennifer Houston, Chair 
    • Federation of State Beef Councils
    • National Cattlemen’s Beef Association 
    • Sweetwater, Tennessee

On Wednesday, March 4, the Market Expo delegation moved on to Tokyo, where similar industry visits are planned. The group also spent a day at FoodEx, Asia’s largest food exhibition. 

Source: U.S. Meat Export Federation

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