Dark day for white meat?

Dan Grech Jul 27, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: Japan ended its ban on U.S. beef today. Imports were stopped more than 2-1/2 years ago. After a case of Mad Cow in Washington State. Japan had been the main export market for US beef. Close to a billion dollars in sales a year. So ranchers are cheering the news. But Marketplace’s Dan Grech reports, not all US exporters are quite as excited.

DAN GRECH: US beef should begin appearing in Japanese supermarkets next month. But the product will have new competition, says Erica Rosa with the Livestock Market Information Center.

ERICA ROSA: It’s been now a couple years, Australian beef has established a stronghold in Japan, so it’s going to be a little bit of a challenge.

And the challenge isn’t confined to Australian beef. After the mad-cow scare, many Japanese switched away from beef altogether. Jay Truitt is with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

JAY TRUITT: When we really look at it across the consumer profile that we filled in the past, we think the people that benefited the most, at the end of the day, may be the US pork and poultry industry.

Pork sales in Japan have jumped 32 percent since the beef ban took hold. Now US hog farmers are worried that those folks will switch back to beef. You might think that a big new market for US cattle could drive up prices here. But economist Parr Rosson at Texas A&M says that’s not likely.

PARR ROSSON: If our exports to Japan take a month or two to gear up, that’ll mitigate any price spikes in the near term.

Plus, the Japanese are fond of intestine and tongue, parts of the cow Americans turn their nose at.

I’m Dan Grech for Marketplace.

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