Japan Loves Pampered Canadian and U.S. Pork
Would you believe that the tiny island of Japan is the second largest importer of pork in the world? But Japanese consumers don’t settle for any old run-of-the-mill pork. They want the highest quality pork on the market.
“The Japanese consumer is probably the most powerful consumer of pork in the world, and they understand the difference in quality,” said Claude Vielfaure, president of the Canadian hog-processing company HyLife.
Japan itself doesn’t produce enough pork to meet the demand of Japanese consumers. It produces only slightly more than half of the pork consumed in the country.
So where does Japan get the pork that it needs to satisfy the Japanese craving for pork? From the U.S. and Canada, of course. In fact, 2016 was a record-setting year for the trade of pork to Japan for both the U.S. and Canada.
The fact that Japanese companies pay high premiums to get the best quality pork has led to fierce competition among Canadian and American meatpacking companies. They make better profits by selling to the Japanese market than to their own domestic markets.
How do pig farmers ensure that their pork will be of the highest quality?
One technique is that pigs destined for Japan are not given ordinary wheat and barley to eat. Instead, their special feed can include spices that unusual ingredients for pig feed, like mint and ginger. The company admits that those spices don’t help the meat taste better but instead serve as a marketing ploy.
Some farmers give their hogs more time to rest before slaughter so that stress doesn’t make the meat become dry. Pigs are usually given 2-5 hours to rest before slaughter, but some places give pigs 16-24 hours in a quiet barn. Companies claim that this longer rest means the meat is juicier and tastier.
Who knows if Japanese consumers will continue to feast on pork at the same rate that they did in 2016? Fish is still the #1 favorite. But pig farmers are taking advantage of the current trend and ‘making hay while the sun shines’ as the saying goes.