The leading value market for U.S. pork has traditionally been Japan, with chilled pork playing a major role. According to U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) Vice President of Marketing Jesse Austin, chilled U.S. pork primarily competes with Canadian and domestic Japanese pork at the retail meat case.

During USMEF’s Strategic Planning Conference, Austin said Japan’s imports of chilled pork U.S. were slightly lower than a year ago while imports from Canada were up 3% through September.

Japan’s retail space is especially competitive this year because Canada’s pork production is up nearly 5% from 2019, he added. In addition, some major Canadian plants are suspended from exporting to China – heightening their focus on the Japanese chilled pork market.

“We still hold the largest market share in chilled pork to Japan currently around 48%,” Austin said. This is slightly higher than Canada, with the remaining share mainly captured by Mexican pork.

USMEF noted it has upcoming promotions planned with both national and regional retailers aimed at further solidifying the United States’ position as Japan’s leading chilled pork supplier.

Ground Seasoned Pork Sales on the Rise

Austin added that Japan is also an important market for U.S. ground seasoned pork (GSP), derived mainly from boneless picnics.

In 2019, U.S. GSP exports to Japan slumped because U.S. suppliers faced a significantly higher tariff rate than their Canadian and European counterparts.

But the playing field was leveled in 2020 through implementation of the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement, USMEF reports.

U.S. GSP exports have staged a robust rebound, increasing 27% to nearly 78,000 metric tons, with value up 45% to $243 million, as the U.S. has captured GSP market share from Canada and Germany. USMEF notes that Japan suspended imports of German pork in mid-September, but these gains predate that suspension.

Austin explained that GSP is a key ingredient in many processed pork products in Japan, especially arabiki sausages, that are quite popular now.

Pork Farm Journal | Jennifer Shike | November 25