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Taupo Beef and Lamb Starts Exporting Meat Range to Japan

16 February 2018

NEW ZEALAND - Taupo Beef and Lamb has begun exporting its meat range to Japan. reports that the company, established by farmers Mike and Sharon Barton, sent the first container load of product in December which went on sale at five high end supermarkets east of Tokyo in mid-January.

The response from shoppers so far had been great, said Mike Barton at a field day at Onetai Station.

"Grass fed beef is a completely different flavour profile to wagyu and the consumers that we have talked to, love it."

Mr Barton said he would not have been able to access the market without the help of his partners, Taylor Preston and Neat Meats.

"It's all very well for me to try and sell beef in Japan, but I have to get it there. I have to get it there in a condition that the Japanese will accept. I have to get it there safely, meet customs requirements - you have got to have really good partners - and I can't emphasise that enough.

"Between us all, we now have a market."

They were sending a container load of beef and lamb a month while still supplying local markets in New Zealand.

Good food presentation is important to shoppers in Japan. Taupo Beef and Lamb's packaging shows a New Zealand farmer and the meat is cut differently than that presented to New Zealand consumers. Scotch fillet is sliced thinly for traditional Japanese dishes.

"Beef is not a traditional part of the Japanese diet and you can't expect them to eat it the way that we do."

The Bartons farm in the Lake Taupo catchment where there is a nitrogen cap. Mr Barton said they started Taupo Beef and Lamb to see if consumers were prepared to pay a premium for a product that was shown to be having a minimal effect on the environment.

They started selling beef and lamb locally before spreading out to main city centres in the North Island. Soon other farmers within the catchment came on board to supply stock.

Mr Barton said they needed to export their range to truly test their model.

"The acid test Sharon and I always imposed on the model was, would we get an export market from people who are probably never going to visit the lake."

Most of New Zealand's meat products are exported.

If the primary industry was going to fix issues around water quality, it had to extract value from overseas customers by getting them to pay a premium for environmental protection work by farmers, he said.

Mr Barton said the real value was in the conversations they had with consumers. Farmers had spent 100 years selling cheap food and prices had steadily dropped over the years.

"We have never internalised the environmental cost of food production into the price that consumers pay and if we were to suddenly turn around and ask for that from consumers, you can't change generations of behaviour over night."

He said there needed to be an open conversation about sharing costs, otherwise farmers would bear the brunt of them.

Mr Barton said their work would be a two generation process which would get them to understand that water quality, greenhouse gasses and other environmental impacts had costs. Some of them would be absorbed by the producer, but not all of it could be.

"I would love to see New Zealand have a strategic plan that would see rolling out the internalisation of those environmental costs into food prices, and that's why we started it."

The agreement with their Japanese supplier is for a year. After that, they would sit down and re-evaluate it, he said.

TheCattleSite News Desk


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