Gaining Insight Into Japanese Market

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Gaining Insight Into Japanese Market


Don Wick


Brett Kaysen, Treasurer , National Pork Board




Don Wick:  00:04  From the Pork Checkoff in Des Moines Iowa, it’s Pork Pod.  Pork Pod, a look at the hot topics in today’s pork industry. The Pork Checkoff is working for you through various forms of research, promotion, and consumer information projects.  This is Don Wick speaking on behalf of the Pork Checkoff. And today our guest is Brett Kaysen, who is the Treasurer the National Pork Board and a Colorado pork producer.   The three National Pork Board Executive Officers and two members of the senior staff leadership participated in a trade mission to both Japan and China along with the cooperation of the U.S. Meat Export Federation. Brett joins us in our podcast today and first of all, Brett, let’s start off by way of introduction. Tell us when you look at this Japanese market in particular, how is the U.S. showcasing our product in this important market?

Brett Kaysen:  00:52  We did have the opportunity to visit several retailers while we were in Japan from the highest of high end to the level of what a 7-11 store would be. So we saw a gamut and a variety. And as we saw that we saw the US pork brand and label, which is exciting. Here you are a long ways from home and you’re seeing a product that our producers take so much pride in producing.  And in the meat case, it is well recognized in Japan. People know it.  There’s a character by the name of the Gochipo that is a cartoon pig, if you will, that they brand the pork case with, as well as the US pork logo. And Gochipo is recognized there.  And I would tell you that I’m not only is it recognized, but it’s sought after.  And it’s versatile.  Versatile in cuts.   Versatile in creativity and versatile in terms of the marketplace in which we saw the product.

Don Wick:  01:45  Are there some things we can learn in the U.S. from all their merchandising of pork in Japan?

Brett Kaysen:  01:51  Yes we can. I think we have the opportunity for more branding of our products specifically, not only as  U.S. pork, but more of telling the story from farm to fork.  The Japanese people really appreciate knowing who the farmer, the pig farmer, the producer is behind the product. And they’d like to see signs with the face of the farmer, a story behind the farm.  Whether that be in traditional signage on the meat case or even in a short video. And so I think we can learn from them because I see the American producers gaining some capital by branding their program and make a connection back to the consumer relative to we as farmers and what we do for a living.

Don Wick:  02:31  Surely Japan is unique, we can the U.S. can send chilled product there. Do we have any competitors really in that arena?

Brett Kaysen:  02:39  We do have several competitors in all our export markets, to be quite frank, and we need to keep that top of mind.  The advantage that we have as we see it is that we have a supply that we can keep them, you know, engaged with that’s of the safest highest quality food source in the world.  And we need to continue to play that to our advantage. Our regulatory situations we deal with going into those countries they look at our product with a great deal of intelligence and inspection measures and we can match that, as opposed to some of our competitors around the world.

Don Wick:  03:18  Quite a contrast between Japan and China?

Brett Kaysen:  03:23  Big contrast!  And, you know, I was a little bit probably naive going in.  You think of Asia, and you lump it all together.  But when you move from Japan up to China, a significant difference in terms of you know cultural styles, preferred eating styles, how our product is displayed and I would say the opportunity in China as we visit its more retail spaces is that pork brand is not as widely recognized in a retail case in China. It’s appreciated. It’s purchased.  It’s warranted and it is found in different retail cases as well. But I’d say our presence in terms of understanding the branding there by the Chinese people is not the level as it is with the Japanese, but it’s an evolving market too. I think it’s going to be huge potential for us over the next five years and some will say you know China’s in a spot where Japan was 10 years ago. So I see China following the model of the Japanese people as their wealth continues to grow and their appetite becomes a preference for American pork..

Don Wick:  04:24  Certainly when you look at where we are with the supply situation in the U.S., we need to be able to move these numbers.

Brett Kaysen:  04:32  There’s no question!  There’s no question!  The export market is our future to be quite frank and we’re doing a great job in terms of promoting our product here domestically. But as you know production is growing.  Numbers are growing and as the shackle space continues to expand, our producers will find a way to fill that  shackle space. And the American people just cannot consume all the product in which we produce. And it’s a logical choice that the export market is key to our future. I would like to comment on the Tokyo meat market if I can here. And essentially, what I will say is a phenomenal experience of the Tokyo meat market.  If I can frame enough it up for you verbally and try to let you imagine visually what this looks like.  You’re essentially in downtown Tokyo and you’re looking at a building that would look from the outside something like a hospital structure.

Brett Kaysen:  05:23  And that’s actually the Tokyo meat market.  You would never guess that they’re fabricating hogs in there.  You would never guess that there’s any live animals coming into this facility. And quite frankly it was the cleanest meat processing facility I’ve ever been in or meat harvesting facility. They actually create those pigs into whole carcasses and then sell them as a whole carcass. And I have never been in a plant that was that organized and that clean, to the point where as you walk in the plant you actually walk through a device. It’s like a giant human hair dryer, if you will, and a phenomenal organization. Phenomenal sanitation and cleanliness. I appreciated that and that goes with the Japanese culture. And I said before as you work through Tokyo it’s a big big big city but extremely organized and very very clean. So I learned some things from them in terms of food safety specs and HAACP, and standard operating procedures that I think we can continue to improve on in the US as well.

Don Wick:  06:25  How do we, how do they get the hogs in without that you’re really not even noticing it?

Brett Kaysen:  06:28  That’s the great question. We actually, as a team, we did not see that part visually, really up close.  But  we as a team walked around the block to the back of the building to see if we could figure it out. And actually we could see in the distance from about a half block away or where they drive the trucks in and unload the pigs.  And essentially, it’s because it’s in this big metropolitan area where there’s big concrete buildings and fences around it, so very camouflaged from the open public. So we did find where they back up the trucks and they just kind of goes down the back alley but it wouldn’t be more the open space look that we’d see in the US, part of that is due to the demographic.  But phenomenal experience, zero smell.  And you know it just proved we can do agriculture and we can do agriculture well, to me, in large populated areas if we take the pride and the integrity to make it right.

Don Wick:  07:25  Brett Kaysen, the National Pork Board Treasurer.  Thanks to you for listening to this edition of Pork Pod. For more information on this topic or the Pork Checkoff itself, visit