South Korean officials say they are nearing an agreement to resume imports of American beef. The Asian government agreed in January to allow imports of the beef from cattle under 30 months of age, but the reopening stalled over measures to ensure meat safety. South Korea wants U.S. plants to process American beef separately from foreign beef. It also wants equipment used on older cows to not be used to process younger ones. While negotiations continue with South Korea, that country's neighbor directly to the east – Japan – recently resumed its purchase of U.S. beef. But being back in the country, doesn't necessarily doesn't mean being back in acceptance.
U.S. beef may be back in Japan's grocery stores, but two recent surveys would indicate few people are buying it. One survey, taken by a Japanese newspaper August 5th and 6th, showed 80 percent of Japanese were either "greatly" or "to some extent", concerned about the safety of U.S. meat. Only 19 percent of the more than 17-hundred survey respondents said they had no worries.
In a separate survey, conducted by the Consumer Union of Japan and Food Safety Citizens' Watch, questionnaires were sent to major food industry companies, including supermarkets and fast food restaurants. Of the 21 companies that replied, only one food chain said it would use U.S. beef. Seven companies – including McDonald's Holdings Company said they had no plans to use U.S. beef. Seven other companies are not using American beef "for the time being". And still others said they would decide after viewing "consumer trends and the quality and price of the beef."
These less than enthusiastic responses come despite a report from the U.S. Meat Export Federation that the first 5 tons of U.S. beef imported by Costco Wholesale Japan ... sold out in one day.