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U.S. lamb embraces broad acceptance in Japan

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Japan recently reopened its market to United States lamb, after a 15-year hiatus. A meat industry proponent talks about efforts to increase United States lamb consumption in the island nation.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) commemorated United States lamb’s return to the Japanese market with an educational seminar and tasting event in Tokyo. Greg Ahart, vice president of Sales for Superior Lamb and USMEF executive committee member, talks about the event, which attracted 200 chefs, importers, purveyors, trade media and other key food industry professionals.

“(The) turnout at the seminar was extremely impressive, (and) the amount of enthusiasm was even more so. From the educational side of it, as well as the presentation of products and the tasting, it was truly something to be a part of,” Ahart said.

Ahart was “blown away” by the genuine interest expressed by consumers and retailers. He believes United States beef and pork exports helped pave the way for U.S. lamb’s success in the Japanese marketplace.

“The credibility that U.S. pork and beef have on this marketplace is beneficial, as we look at reintroducing lamb. Some of the more senior meat people have experience with lamb, from pre-15 years ago. But for the younger crowd that wasn’t there, just the overall credibility the other two high-quality proteins bring helps with the perception of quality in the American product,” Ahart said.

High-end hotels and restaurants showed great interest in utilizing United States lamb. Ahart believes the animal protein has the potential to perform well in other areas as well. 

“Touring the retail landscape, a lot of items are more consumer friendly, or consumer ready, than I anticipated. I think as we, as an industry, push towards making lamb easier for the consumer – making it so there’s less of a hurdle of knowledge and experience with it – there’s some applicability for those items as well. Items like lamb shanks (and) Denver ribs will have applicability and interest here as we build on the enthusiasm,” Ahart said.