WASHINGTON – US Dept. of Agriculture announced on July 12 that sheep and goat meat could be exported to Japan for the first time in nearly 15 years.

Japan was a prime market for American lamb until the country banned US sheep and goat exports in December 2003 following a bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) detection in the US cattle herd.

The US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) praised the decision by Japan.

“There is great demand for high-quality, grain-fed red meat in Japan, as demonstrated by the success of US beef and pork,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “The US lamb industry is anxious to capitalize on opportunities in Japan’s restaurant and retail sectors, and USMEF is eager to begin promoting US lamb in Japan.”

The USMEF stated that US lamb was well-received in other upscale markets, including Taiwan which reopened to US lamb in 2016.

Japan’s lamb imports reached a record value of $169 million in 2017, according to the USDA release.  Australia and New Zealand are the top suppliers of lamb to the Japanese.