Ito Yokado Trades Aussie Beef Middle Meats for High-Quality U.S. Products
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As prices for beef middle meats in the U.S. have stalled with the economy, the beef checkoff is actively working in the United States’ highest value beef export market to develop an appetite for these premium cuts and further diversify the audience for beef exports.
One of Japan’s leading supermarket chains, Ito Yokado, brought the message of the quality and value of U.S. beef middle meats to consumers last week in a special promotion. This was a significant shift for Ito Yokado, which previously had focused on Australian middle meats at its 174 store locations throughout Japan, but recently agreed to shift all of its middle meat purchases to U.S. product.
“This was an important promotion for several reasons,” said Dan Halstrom, U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) senior vice president of global marketing, contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program. “First, this was a purchasing shift by Ito Yokado from Australian product to U.S. middle meats. Second, this is an opportunity to help develop Japanese consumers’ interest in U.S. middle meats, particularly at a time when prices in the U.S. are stagnant or slumping. If we can cultivate an appetite for beef middle meats in Japan, that will open up new trade options and help us sustain both the volume and value of American beef exports.”
The Ito Yokado promotion, funded with support from the Beef Checkoff Program, the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) and corn checkoff funds from several states, was an extension of a month-long American Fair promotion that highlighted a broader range of food products from the United States.
Ito Yokado staffed its stores with demonstrators to distribute samples of U.S. strip loins, and was supported bhe promotion by training the demonstrators on proper cooking techniques, information on the quality and safety of U.S. beef, and useful sales skills. Research has shown that a properly trained demonstrator will produce, on average, 50.8 percent higher sales than the average demonstrator.
Management of Ito Yokado reports very positive consumer reactions, primarily focused on their appreciation of – and surprise at – both the taste and tenderness of U.S. beef strip loins. Exports of U.S. beef to Japan are up 50 percent in volume and 54 percent in value for the first six months of 2011 versus last year, reaching 170.4 million pounds valued at $416.3 million.
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The Beef Checkoff Program was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. The checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. States retain up to 50 cents on the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national checkoff program, subject to USDA approval.