Delegates from North Dakota tour with USMEF to Japan

Cattle producers are looking at a potential windfall of up to $200 million per year with the lifting of the longstanding age requirement, announced in May of this year.  In a gesture of goodwill, ranchers with U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) traveled to Tokyo with 31 producer members encompassing 13 states to get a market view of Japan. Importers, distributors and retailers in Japan were also in attendance. The delegation was enthusiastic about the prospects of trade and the lowering of tariffs.

On this trip were two producers from North Dakota, Clark Price and Mark Voll. Price has a diversified cow-calf, backgrounding and 2,500 head feedyard operation in the Washburn area north of Bismarck. Voll has a cow-calf operation in western McKenzie county.

“I got asked by the USMEF to come here and really promote U.S. beef and try to promote new products and try to put a face to consumers in Japan to try and promote our product over here,” said Price. “This is a number four export market for U.S. beef. It’s a big important thing to build trust with U.S. markets, that was really the incentive to come over here and make that connection.”

The North Dakota Beef Commission (NDBC) has partnered with USMEF the past three years on specific promotion programs in Japan retail outlets. The NDBC has seen the need to promote beef in foreign markets as 96% of our potential world customers live outside of the United States. According to Nancy Jo Bateman, executive director of the NDBC, North Dakota beef checkoff dollars, along with funds from the USMEF and third-party contributions, resulted in substantially increased sales for a total volume sales during promotion periods of 3,532,700 pounds of US beef.

“This involvement from our state level with the Meat Export Federation has continued to build through the years prior to myself being on the beef commission,” said Voll. “This Heartland trip has been going on for a few years, but this is the first time we have representation. Why I am here, there was a couple of us who expressed interest in going, and I drew the lucky straw.”

The lifting of 30-month age restriction could result in the potential addition of $200 million. Currently, $2 billion is exported to the Japanese market. To put this extra $200 million into perspective, this is the amount that is exported to markets such as the Middle East and Europe.

“Once we got access to the 30-month and over, it kinda gives us access to the fed cow market. The middle meats of the cow, the offal, the tongue, the variety of meats that comes with that,” said Price. “It adds a lot of value to the U.S. producer, as well as the Japanese consumer to be able to afford some U.S. beef that they weren’t able to afford before.”

This will strengthen the cull market and add value with cuts including, middle meats, shoulder clods, and brisket further opening the markets to Japanese consumers who currently consume large amounts of the tongue.

“One of the featured items that were served tonight at a meeting tonight with meat purveyors, meat traders and those involved in the packing industry, one of the entrees was ground beef on a bun which we take for granted in the states,” said Voll. “One thing they are going to be doing in Japan is buying these middle meats whole and grinding that once it gets to Japan and serving that as a gourmet burger. I think that is going to be a very big product in Japan.”

While on this trip, the delegation conducted retail tours, tastings and seminars with Japanese buyers and lunch with the Japan Meat Traders Association. This was the first trip with representation from North Dakota, Rusty Halverson asked both Price and Voll about the foods that have eaten aside from beef.

“The meals that we are having with U.S. meat in them are fantastic,” said Price. “The Asian food that we have eaten in the Asian market is not something that I’m not used to every day. It’s different, you know, raw fish and a little bit of different things. It’s been good. Most of our meals have been very good.”

“I’m not much of an experimental eater, some of these things I shy away from,” said Voll.

Clark remarked, “He’s like a garbage disposal, he’ll eat anything. He’s doing well, and it hasn’t set him back too much.”

“The food that we’ve had trough the MEF programs have been fantastic,” replied Voll.