A commodities expert with the Illinois Farm Bureau says beef exports to Japan could rise 45% this year. That comes with the lifting of a decade old ban on most U.S. beef as fears of mad cow disease have faded in Japan. The Farm Bureau's Tamara Nelsen says the 150 million dollars in revenue that will create for the Illinois economy is a faster recovery than expected. That exceeds the value of the market to Illinois producers a decade ago.
"I really thought it would take a while for it to build back up. But, then when I started looking at it again, this makes sense now because we were there ten years ago and the Japanese were already lamenting to us verbally the lack of American beef in the market. So they have had almost what you would call a pent up demand."
Nelsen says U.S. beef tends to have a higher fat content and that is desirable in a luxury product for Japanese consumers. She says that has even which has created marketing opportunities based on where American beef is produced.
"And they were going to actually have a branded product called I-80 beef. Now I can't imagine a single American even knowing one of the highways in Japan, much less one that was associated with a food product. But, this was actually like a known concept to some of the chefs and restaurant chains."
Japan is the number two market for U.S. Beef producers for the U.S. because they buy premium cuts. Illinois accounts for about 12% of the American beef production. The old restriction barred exportation of any U.S. beef older than 20 months. The new limit is 30 months. Nelsen says the U.S still faces stiff competition in Japan from Australian and New Zeeland beef, which has lower transportation costs.
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