With a new trade agreement leveling the playing field for U.S. beef and pork in Japan, the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Brady Ragland visited the country in September to promote American products.
Ragland and 30 other members of the U.S. Meat Export Federation’s (USMEF) Heartland Team shared the tasty truth about U.S. beef and pork and soaked up Japanese agriculture Sept. 1-7.
“My biggest takeaway was seeing firsthand how important export markets are to U.S. producers,” said Ragland, the Federation’s Beef Division director. “As our largest value destination for U.S. beef and pork, the Japanese market alone contributes $80.49 of value per head to fed cattle and $13.02 per head to fed hogs in the U.S.”
Ragland said his favorite experience was an urban barbecue with Japanese consumers who had never tried U.S. meat products. The group grilled ribeye steaks and pork ribs at Weber Park overlooking Tokyo Bay.
“They were especially intrigued by the photos and videos we showed them from our cattle operations back in the U.S.,” said Ragland, one of just two USMEF members from the Southeast. “Afterward, they mentioned how appreciative they were to learn about U.S. meat from ‘real U.S. cowboys.’”
In the heart of downtown Tokyo, the USMEF team beefed up its trip at the Tokyo Meat Market, which harvests 400 cattle and 1,000 hogs daily. At Kawaguchi Wagyu Farm, the team learned about prized A5 Wagyu cattle, which command $14,000-16,000 per head at the meat auction due to high marbling.
Ragland also toured Hannan Beef Tongue Processing Plant, which imports U.S. beef tongue. Tongue is a growing menu item in Japan with over 150 restaurants serving the product in Sendai alone. At a local restaurant, the USMEF team sampled grilled tongue, which Ragland said was “a little chewy but overall tasty.”
USMEF’s team met with U.S. Embassy staffers, the Japan Meat Traders Association, U.S. packer agents and retail representatives, in addition to promoting U.S. pork and beef at consumer-focused tasting events.
The U.S.-Japan trade deal was agreed to in principle in August. The agreement reduces tariffs on U.S. pork and beef, making American products more competitive with countries like Australia and Mexico. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced U.S. products from all cattle, regardless of age, can enter the Japanese market for the first time since 2003.