Japanese journalists tour U.S. beef industry

Oct 1, 2010
by WLJ

A group of Japanese journalists is getting an extensive inside look at the U.S. beef industry as part of a U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) educational initiative to better inform key Japanese opinion leaders about the safety of U.S. beef.

Representatives of the Sankei Shimbun (one of Japan’s five national newspapers, with a daily circulation of 2.8 million), Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun (Business & Technology Daily News with a circulation of 420,000), the Meat Journal and the Daily Meat & Livestock Food Industry Newspaper are on a week-long educational tour that includes Colorado State University’s (CSU) Agricultural Research, Development and Education Center, tours of a beef processing plant, feedlot and cattle ranch, as well as retail and food service establishments. Funding for the visit is provided by the Beef Checkoff Program and the USDA Market Access Program.

“These journalists are information sources for government officials, meat industry executives, consumers and other journalists,” said Susumu (Sam) Harada, USMEF-Japan senior director for trade projects and technical service, who is accompanying the journalists.

“Helping them see the safety practices employed by the U.S. beef industry and the high quality standards for both livestock and finished product is important as we look to expand access for U.S. beef exports to Japan.”

“There is a long-term benefit to our industry in helping to educate international media so that they better understand the policies and practices of the U.S. beef industry,” said Mark Gustafson, JBS USA international sales, who hosted the visiting journalists’ tour of the company’s Greeley, CO, beef plant. “There are differences between how the industry operates in the United States and Japan, but our priorities are the same. We are both committed to producing safe and wholesome beef.”

One of the biggest differences the visitors will see is the scale of operations in the U.S. versus those they have seen in Japan. A large beef plant in the U.S. will process as many cattle as all of Japan. Similarly, feedlots in the U.S. can hold tens of thousands of cattle while smaller feeding operations are the norm in Japan.

“The larger and faster operations do not mean lack of quality and safety control,” said one of the visiting journalists. “The consistent ability (of U.S. beef production facilities) to comply with the various requirements of many foreign markets is far beyond my expectation.”

The journalists also enjoyed a meeting with Dr. Temple Grandin, CSU professor of animal science and industry pioneer in animal welfare.

“The technological development to assure safer and wholesome products, and the high level of commitment to animal welfare at cattle production and at beef plants should be more publicized in order to tell the Japanese audience the reliability of the U.S. industry,” said another journalist.

“Understanding the differences and seeing how the U.S. beef industry can maintain a high standard of quality, even with much higher volumes, is important for these journalists,” said Gustafson. “And witnessing the complexity of our systems to sort cattle by age and to sort products for shipment, in our case, to more than 44 markets around the world, is an eye-opening experience. In the end, the same system of food safety practices and technologies that serves American consumers is utilized to provide high-quality, grain-fed beef for Japanese families and consumers around the world.”

Through the first seven months of 2010, the U.S. has sold 64,959 metric tons (143.2 million pounds) of beef valued at $336.2 million to Japan. Those numbers are 25 percent higher than the same period of 2009. — WLJ