JAPAN, Tokyo. The US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) launched US lamb’s return to the Japanese market with an educational seminar and tasting event that drew more than 200 chefs, importers, purveyors, trade media and other key food industry professionals in Tokyo.
Following the detection of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in the United States in December 2003, Japan was closed to US lamb for nearly 15 years before reopening in July of this year.
USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom said US lamb now has a long-awaited opportunity to capitalize on Japan’s strong demand for high-quality red meat products. It was noted that the strong reputation and following US pork and beef have established in Japan will provide positive momentum for US lamb.
USMEF-Japan Director Takemichi Yamashoji also emphasized the need to attract younger customers, who will be a major focus of future tastings and promotions.
Japan’s imports of lamb and sheep meat are trending higher. Through October, imports in 2018 totaled 21,151 t (up 11% from a year ago) valued at $171.2 mill. (up 20% and already a full-year record). Australian lamb currently holds about 60% market share, with New Zealand lamb capturing nearly 40%. Lamb and sheep meat enter Japan at zero duty.