SCOTT JAGOW: Today the first imports of American beef arrived in Japan. Those imports have been in a deep freeze for the better part of two and a half years. It was that infernal mad cow disease. Jocelyn Ford reports.

JOCELYN FORD: Japan used to be America's most lucrative export market for beef, worth $1.4 billion a year.

Now, Tatsuo Iwama of Japan Meat Traders Federation says it could take 2 or 3 years before U.S. beef exports to Japan start to sizzle again.

Iwama says over the past few years, Australia has increased its exports, and the Japanese have cut down on their consumption of red meat.

Recent polls show a majority of Japanese consumers don't plan to buy American beef, and major restaurants don't plan to put it on their menu anytime soon.

That's despite Japan's tough new inspection rules aimed at keeping consumers safe.

For the time being, importers are required to open every single box to make sure shipments don't include banned material like spine bones that are associated with mad cow disease.

I'm Jocelyn Ford for Marketplace.

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