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Montana Ag Network: American lamb returns to Japan

BILLINGS- American lamb is finally back in Japan after a 15 year absence.

Montana sheep producers say they’re excited to have this important export market open for business again.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation recently launched U.S. 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 strong interest and enthusiasm shown for U.S. lamb.

“The turnout at the seminar was extremely impressive, and the enthusiasm was even more so,” Ahart said. “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. I was completely blown away by the volume and genuineness of the interest expressed.”

The lucrative Japanese red meat market has been closed to U.S. lamb since 2003 when bovine spongiform encephalopathy (commonly known as mad cow disease) was detected in the United States. But with the reopening, it has lamb producers like Mike Green from Cohagen 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 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 says that the strong reputation U.S. beef and pork have established in Japan will provide more positive momentum for U.S. lamb which is great news for U.S. lamb producers.

-Russell Nemetz reporting for MTN News

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