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Wal-Mart’s Japanese subsidiary, Seiyu, announced that it will begin selling US beef there.

J. Thomas Schieffer, the US Ambassador to Japan, said in a press release: “I’m very pleased to help Seiyu celebrate their new promotion of U.S. beef…We have worked very hard to make sure that safe U.S. beef is available once again to Japanese consumers. U.S. beef is not only safe but it tastes really good, and I think Seiyu’s customers will find that it is a great buy.”

Japan only recently opened its borders to American beef, having banned it for several years because of concerns about mad cow disease; Japan has a far stricter testing policy than the United States, and only lifted the ban when the US government agreed to certain conditions that reassured the Japanese government that sufficient oversight was in place.
KC's View:
Ambassador Schieffer (who, by the way, is the brother of CBS’s Bob Schieffer, host of “Face The Nation”) can applaud the Seiyu move all he wants.

When we were in Tokyo last year meeting with executives from Aeon – which is the biggest supermarket chain in Japan – we learned that they had no intention of selling US beef because, they said, customers did not trust it. This is a culture where people are so concerned about disease that a percentage of the population walks around the streets wearing surgical masks – they pay attention to the foods they buy, where they come from, and how they are raised or grown.

At the time, the only retailer in Japan selling US beef was Costco. Now, Wal-Mart.

We would suggest that the Seiyu decision may be more driven by politics than consumer interests…and if this is the case, it is not a good sign for the company’s prospects for being more competitive in the marketplace.