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The challenges of access to the Japanese beef market lead PROVACUNO to organize a trip so that Japanese importers can learn about the European product

Japan’s beef market access challenges: appeals and lessons from the Japanese importers on the study trip celebrated last June 

PROVACUNO, the Spanish beef inter-professional association, hosted for the third consecutive year a study trip to take top Japanese importers to European factories and farms in Spain as part of its "Wonderful Beef 2.0 Campaign. Participating Japanese importers toured Spain's rich landscape and visited many key facilities while exchanging views on the relationship between the Japanese beef market and imports of European Beef from Spain.

Besides, a seminar was held along the study trip where details of the European Production Model (EPM) were presented to domestic importers to help them understand the safety and high quality of the European beef from Spain. This way, participants learned about antibiotic- and growth hormone-free rearing, a high commitment to traceability, and efforts to maintain an environment that takes sustainable animal welfare into consideration, which at the end, are the main pillars of the EPM.

The EPM presentation received the following positive feedback from Japanese importers:

  • Hygienic environment in integrated slaughter production and packaging for the end-user is in place
  • Safety is guaranteed
  • Has a production structure based on animal welfare
  • Livestock are treated with care.
  • Traceability is considered to be a prerequisite, and there is a system in place to identify which packer produced the product and when, in the event of an accident.

Participants toured various farms and slaughterhouses around Spain. In Salamanca, they visited a livestock farm that is one of the nation’s top producers of naturally raised calves and cattle. In Valencia, participants visited a large-scale slaughterhouse positioned among the top 5h largest producers of beef in Europe. The following discussion and evaluation of the differences from Japanese slaughterhouses were stated as follows:

  • Unlike in the U.S. and other countries, even livestock are raised in a wonderful way with an emphasis on animal welfare.
  • They are committed to animal welfare and environmental protection.
  • They do not use growth hormones and take good care of their livestock.
  • Artificial insemination is the main method in Japan, but in Europe, natural mating is the main method.
  • The majority of companies handle everything from slaughtering to processing.
  • Relatively safe and secure, just like in Japan.
  •  The process is mechanized and clean.
  • Small-scale packers are relatively similar in many respects. On the other hand, in Japan there are no slaughterhouses as big as the one visited in Valencia, so the mechanized state-of-the-art plants are a novelty.

Participants also suggested the following appeal points and issues to be addressed in order to encourage Japanese people to try European Beef from Spain:

  • If varieties similar to Angus beef are enhanced, sales channels will expand.
  • Compared to beef from the United States, which is the main beef producing country, European grain-fed beef is young, has very little fat, and is very lean.
  • It is necessary to penetrate the Japanese market first in order to find out if the lean features of European beef from Spain is feasible to the domestic market.
  • In Japan, there are brands such as Shorthorn Beef that sell lean meat, but since it is still considered to be in its growth phase, it is better to promote its high protein content, etc. and put the advantages of lean meat in front of the Japanese market.
  • Some parts of the meat have excellent cost performance, so selection is necessary.
  • The deliciousness of lean meat is the opposite of sashi (marbled), but this is an opportunity to make people appreciate the taste of lean meat.
  • Japanese people have a good impression of Europe, so it will be important to highlight the European origin of the meat.

This inspection tour enabled the participants to fully understand the characteristics of European beef from Spain. The participants were interested in different cuts such as beef tongue, tenderloin, beef filet, offal, skirt, and hanging tender… which are not readily available in Japan.

The EPM, state-of-the art slaughterhouses, farms, meat quality standards, safety, animal welfare, variety of beef parts available, and commitment to sustainability are all points that appeal to Japanese importers and consumers, making European and Spanish beef an ideal product for import into the Japanese market.


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