Nebraska Farmers Promote Beef in Japan



Cameras in hand, bloggers rush to see the sizzle of an American steak.

"The Japanese people don't know about real American steak," celebrity chef Rika Yukimasa told them.

They snapped images that reached hundreds of thousands, telling Japanese moms the benefits of Nebraska's corn fed beef.

Tim Scheer of the Nebraska Corn Board explained, "It's less expensive than Wagyu beef and better tasting than Australian grass fed beef."

Japanese consumers are rediscovering American beef, a decade after a scare from BSE, often called by what farmers see as the misleading name -- "mad cow disease".

"There was one case in 2003," Scheer said.

He was among a handful of Nebraska farmers who recently visited Japan. Scheer believes the country capitalized on the fear to shut American beef out of the market.

"Was then a political bargaining chip and something we could hold for some trade negotiations," he said.

In January, Japan agreed to allow beef from animals under 30 months of age. Now 95 percent of American beef meets that standard.

And box after box of U.S. beef has already arrived.

"Exponential's not the right term, but we're going to be pushing hard to get back to where we were," Scheer said.

U.S. beef sales to Japan could top a billion dollars this year. That's why the Nebraska Corn Board joined the U.S. Meat Export Federation on a trade mission to win over buyers, bloggers, and consumers.

Farmers like Tim Scheer explained how the corn they grow feeds cattle that end up on the grill in Japan.

Scheer said, "Being able to see the whole food chain system and be able to see face to face and look you in the eye and know you're telling the truth, and one of the most important things is this is the same thing we feed our family."

Farmers visited areas devastated by the earthquake and tsunami. They weren't there for sightseeing, but to make social connections and follow up on outreach efforts made following the disaster when Nebraska beef was shipped to the Sendai region.