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Montana Ag Network: American lamb returns to Japan

After a 15-year absence, American lamb has returned to Japan and some people in the United States sheep industry are excited to have the export market open for business again.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation recently launched American lamb’s return to the Japanese market with an educational seminar and tasting event in Tokyo. Greg Ahart, vice president of sales for Superior Farms, participated in the event and was impressed with the interest and enthusiasm.

“After a 15-year absence from the marketplace, seeing the amount of excitement and interest that was present in the room, both from the educational side, as well as when we proceeded to the presentation of products and the tasting, this event was truly something to be part of,” he said. “I was completely blown away by the volume and genuineness of the interest expressed.”

The Japanese red meat market was closed to U.S. lamb since 2003 when BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) was detected. The reopening, however, has lamb producers like Mike Green from Cohagen, Montana excited about the opportunities.

“It’s tough to get enough domestic lamb production the way it is, but to be able to use some of those off cuts or those hard pieces to move, but to have that extra market and be able to reach out into uncharted waters is huge,” Green said.

With demand for lamb increasing in Japan, Sam Ortmann from Wolf Point, Montana hopes it translates into higher market prices for lambs like his here at home.

“The implications of exporting meat to a different source greatly helps our market in that it relieves product from coming back into our market and overloading it,” Ortmann said.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation stated that the strong reputation U.S. beef and pork has established in Japan will provide more momentum for U.S. lamb.

-Reported by Russell Nemetz/MTN News

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