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Thursday 19 July 2018

Pictures: Inside Tokyo's famed beef market where 130,000 beef carcases sold each year

Japanese cattle dealers check beef meat before an auction at the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Meat Market. Photo:AFP/Getty Images
Japanese cattle dealers check beef meat before an auction at the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Meat Market. Photo:AFP/Getty Images

David Deeley

As part of its Trade Mission to Japan and South Korea, Bord Bia took Ireland's meat industry into the famed Metropolitan Central Wholesale market in Toyko.

The largest wholesale meat centre in Japan, the plant accounts for more than 130,000 beef carcases sold each year, plus 210,000 of pork.

A buyer checks one of Japan's most expensive types of beef, Matsuzakagyu, at Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market. Getty Images
A buyer checks one of Japan's most expensive types of beef, Matsuzakagyu, at Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market. Getty Images

The meat market commands a good price for farmers who travel up to 1,500km from locations such as Hokkaido (Northern Island) to the site which is located beside the headquarters of companies like Sony and Microsoft.

While some carcasses are transported in for sale, the site also houses an abattoir which processes around 90,000 cattle a year. Outside, the facility blends in with the architecture of its sky scraper surroundings and bears little resemblance to an equivalent site in Ireland.

One of Japan's most expensive types of beef, Matsuzakagyu, is hung at Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market. Gettyimages.
One of Japan's most expensive types of beef, Matsuzakagyu, is hung at Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market. Gettyimages.

Auctions start from 10am with about 30 producers and customer present, all chanting “Let’s Go” in Japanese as the carcasses roll forward for bidders to inspect and purchase.

Carcases can weigh anything from 400kg to even 600kg with the signature marbling intact. Graded and branded for meat quality and yield, the system uses a 22-point set of criteria, which is based on an A-C grade and meat quality of 1-5.

A block of beef is hung at Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market on January 26, 2004 in Tokyo, Japan. About 700 cattle are sold at this market each day. Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images.
A block of beef is hung at Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market on January 26, 2004 in Tokyo, Japan. About 700 cattle are sold at this market each day. Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images.

The topmost A5 carcass which weighed almost 500kg and represents a small proportion of their daily intake. The indicative price per kilo of which amounts to €20/kg (¥2,800) for the coveted A5 grade.

Some 25 meat and dairy companies are part of the Department-led trade mission that goes on to South Korea to promote Irish exports to the region.

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David Deeley, Bord Bia Consumer & Market Insight team.

Japanese cattle dealers check hanging Japanese beef before auction at the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Meat Market. Getty Images
Japanese cattle dealers check hanging Japanese beef before auction at the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Meat Market. Getty Images

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