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“Mad Cow” scare drives local beef trade in disarray

Date Posted: 2004-01-15

The discovery of BSE in a single American cow has thrown the Japanese beef market in disarray now being felt even in Okinawa. Following the discovery, wholesale price of beef from countries such as Australia and New Zealand has reportedly gone up by 40 percent. Although many restaurants and supermarkets say they try to keep the prices to customers as low as possible, experts say it is inevitable that the prices must go up rather sooner than later.

Another result has been that people eat less beef. Although many restaurants advertise that they use only Australian or New Zealand beef, some eateries in Naha City that specialize in steaks report that their sales are down by as much as 20 percent.

Yoshinoya, a chain restaurant that specializes in “donburi” dishes, had to develop other kind of bowls to replace their trademark beef bowl “gyudon.” “99.9 percent of beef we used for our gyudon came from the U.S. and it is impossible for us to replace it with beef from other sources. For example, Australian beef is expensive and not suitable for our dishes,” a spokesman for Yoshinoya said in a TV interview recently.

A manager at San-A supermarket said they have managed to keep the prices down because there is still some beef left in storage, but before long, the price has to go up. “We have about three months’ supply in our storage, but since we have to buy new stock from our wholesalers, I’m sorry but we must raise our prices,” he said.

Wholesalers are not happy either. “We imported 80 percent of our beef from the U.S. and we have stock only for two to three months. Japanese beef is way too expensive, and so is Australian beef. We really hope that the safety of American beef can be confirmed soon,” a Naha-based beef wholesaler said.

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