Could beef tongue be the delicacy to crack the Japanese beef market?

Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Ireland has had access to the Japanese beef market since 2014, when BSE restrictions were lifted.

Since 2014 Ireland's main beef export to Japan has been offal, which the Japanese market has a large demand for, according to Declan Fennell of Bord Bia.

Speaking in Tokyo this week, Fennell said that since 2014 Irish offal exports to Japan has mainly been beef tongue - a local delicacy and about 30t of it is imported from Ireland every month into Japan.

One restaurant chain, Negishi, which has 38 restaurants across Tokyo, is one of the main importers of Irish beef tongue and it serves around 1.2m pieces of beef tongue every year to its 5.4m customers.

Beef tongue being served in Japan.
Beef tongue being served in Japan.

According to Bord Bia tongue makes approximately double what it sells for in Continental Europe and while Irish farmers do not get paid for tongue, it is according to Fennell a door opening opportunity for more Irish beef.

"The ambition is to get more steaks into Japan, but the 38.5pc tariff is a barrier," he said in Japan this week. The recent EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement will see the current 38.5pc tariff on Irish beef exports to Japan reduced, which he said would make Irish steak more competitive.

Bord Bia's Declan Fennell met with Mr Negishi and his marketing team in Tokyo this week, after previously being in Ireland. It was agreed that both parties would work together to research and develop a marketing positioning for Irish beef across the restaurant chains, of which there are 36 currently in Tokyo.

While Japanese restaurants are taking beef tongue from Irish cattle under 30 months, and the Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed said this week in Tokyo that his Department met with Japanese officials to discuss the possibility of taking meat from animals over 30 months.

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This week Bord Bia and the Department of Agriculture ed a 25-company strong trade mission to Japan and South Korea to promote Irish food and drink exports.

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