The U.S. Meat Export Federation recently paired beef and baseball in a new campaign involving two-time Japanese baseball triple crown winner and Oklahoma state Senator Randy Bass to promote U.S. beef in Japan.
Since Japan expanded access for U.S. beef earlier this year to include product from cattle up to 30 months of age, USMEF-Japan and its partners in the Japanese yakiniku industry have collaborated on a variety of promotional programs to let consumers know that popular U.S. beef – particularly beef tongue – is again being featured in the tabletop-grill cuisine.
As part of the promotion, USMEF offered baseballs and bats autographed by Bass as prizes in a drawing. To be eligible, consumers had to order the "Randy Bass Menu" at participating yakiniku chains nationwide.
After playing professional baseball in the U.S. for 16 years, including six in the major leagues, Bass played the final six years of his career with the Hanshin Tigers of Japan's Central League. There, he set eight Japanese national records, including winning back-to-back triple crowns and setting a single-season batting average record of .389.
Even after 25 years away from baseball, Bass remains an extremely popular figure in Japan. Bass chose to meet first with children in the Tohoku region of Japan that was devastated by an earthquake and tsunami in the spring of 2011. USMEF represented the U.S. red meat industry in the region after the disaster, spearheading relief efforts designed to provide hot meals to people displaced from their homes.
During Bass' visit, a Japanese charity returned the gesture, providing donations from Japanese children to help the Oklahoma residents displaced by a massive tornado earlier this year.
Bass, a wheat and cattle farmer in addition to serving as a state senator, also met with youth baseball teams and, while preparing beef dishes for the children, explained beef's benefits.
"American beef contains good protein, vitamins and minerals such as iron and zinc, which are the best ingredients for athletes' health," Bass explained.
Takemichi Yamashoji, senior marketing director for USMEF-Japan, said the Japanese yakiniku market is extremely important for the U.S. beef industry, and the promotion helped to accelerate the return of U.S. beef to the market-leading share it previously held.
For the first time since 2003, U.S. beef has regained its status as the No. 1 export market for U.S. beef. Through the first seven months of the year, Japan has purchased 142,875 metric tons (315 million pounds) valued at $855.8 million – increases of 57% in volume and 43% in value versus 2012.