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, earlier in the week, as detailed in this USMEF news release.

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.”

Cooking instructor Rika Yukimasa (right) visits with members of the USMEF Market Expo team at a food blogger event in Tokyo

Cooking instructor Rika Yukimasa (right) visits with members of the USMEF Market Expo team at a food blogger event in Tokyo

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 Brook 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.

Dean Meyer of the Iowa Corn Growers Association shares photos of his farm with Tokyo food bloggers

Dean Meyer of the Iowa Corn Growers Association shares photos of his farm with Tokyo food bloggers

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

 

Reporters interested in interviewing any of the Market Expo participants can email Joe Schuele or call him at 303-547-0030.