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Wagyu beef returns to European market

A chef at Beef Bar, a restaurant in Monaco, shows off its stock of Kobe beef.

Publication Date : 26-08-2014


With the lifting of a ban on beef exports from Japan to the European Union, Japanese deluxe wagyu beef has started to hit the market in Europe. High-quality Japanese agricultural products are popular overseas and the government’s aggressive agricultural policy has been encouraging exports.

At Beef Bar, a restaurant overlooking a port in Monaco, a country known for its luxurious resorts along the Mediterranean coast, brand wagyu Kobe beef has been on the menu since July. The price of a fillet steak is 110 euros (US$145) per 100 grams. The cost is five to sevenfold more than that for Argentine beef, which goes for 47 euros per 300 grams, and Australian beef, which averages 69 euros per 300 grams.

The marketing slogan for Kobe beef is “Every time you try it, a new world opens up before your eyes,” and one out of 10 customers who order steak asks for Kobe beef, according to Riccardo Giraudi, the restaurant’s 38-year-old owner. Giraudi said the restaurant sells seven kilograms of it daily, adding that everyone wants the real thing.

The EU, which banned imports of Japanese beef because of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Japan and for other reasons, lifted the ban in 2013. Trade resumed in June this year after various procedures, including approval of slaughtering facilities, were completed.

About 20 million yen worth of Japanese beef has been exported since June, according to the Finance Ministry’s foreign trade statistics. The first shipment of Kobe beef arrived in Europe on July 9.

The government aims for a fivefold increase of beef exports from 5 billion yen in 2012 to 25 billion yen by 2020. The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry has positioned Europe, where a large amount of beef is consumed, as an important market together with the United States and other countries.

But there are also concerns. In Europe, wagyu produced outside of Japan is already recognized as high-grade beef. The beef comes from cattle bred from cattle exported from Japan some time ago.

At a luxury department store in London, Australian wagyu fillet is sold at 215 pounds per kilogram. Spanish wagyu salami is also available there.

According to Giraudi, his restaurant has also served foreign-produced wagyu as “Kobe-style beef.” He said the best way to raise the profile of Japanese beef for European consumers was to boost connoisseurship and draw attention to the superior taste of Japanese marbled beef.

Yasuhiro Ozato, parliamentary secretary at the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry, who attended a Japanese beef tasting event in London on the occasion of the lifting of the beef export ban, indicated the government’s intention of supporting exports. “If people compare Japanese beef with other beef, the difference in taste is obvious,” he said. “We hope there will be many more opportunities to make wagyu better known.”

Isozumi is a correspondent in London.


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