Matsuya is a type of "fast-food" restaurant chain with outlets scattered throughout Japan, and even some in China and one in New York City. Their main featured dish is a beef bowl - large bowls filled with rice and topped with short plate beef, boiled and seasoned. They also served BBQ beef short plate cuts that are thicker and the customer can choose the sauce. This was the first time that any USMEF staff or U.S. visitors were able to tour the beef processing plant as they just recently switched to using U.S. beef.
This was a significant switch. Matsuya uses 2 million pounds of short plate cut beef per month. The short plate cut is the muscle around the stomach and is a highly preferred cut of beef in Japan, whereas in the U.S., this is used in making hamburger. By exporting the short plates from the U.S. to other countries like Japan that prefer it, we are adding value to our corn-fed beef.
Food safety is a major concern for Japan and that was very evident the moment we arrived at the Matsuya processing plant. We were asked to sanitize our hands constantly, wore full body suits with masks, hairnets and rubber boots. We then had to go into a machine that blew the dust off of us, were rolled with a dust rollers by employees and had to wash in/wash out. (Yes, that is me…)
But it was all worth the efforts to walk in and see the boxes of U.S. beef, see the machines that were slicing the short plate in different thicknesses for the beef bowls and BBQ beef, and hear the meat buyers compliment the best tasting U.S. beef and USMEF.
Even though this Matsuya beef processing plant was not directly affected by the tsunami disaster, it has had to make a big change in production. They usually serve 150 million customers per year and have the plant open five days per week. But after the disaster, the Japanese government asked the country to help conserve energy with the power plants being damaged, so they work less hours during the weekdays when more energy is used, and remain open 7 days a week to process in the daylight.
You can see more pictures on the team’s online Flickr photo album.