DUBAI — You might say wagyu beef stole the show here last month.
The show would be Gulfood, the Middle East’s largest food trade show. Some 5,000 businesses from around the world exhibited at the fair.
At the Japan pavilion, 27 businesses and organizations displayed uniquely Japanese offerings such as matcha green tea powder and fermented foods. But visitors were mostly fascinated by a wagyu-tasting event. Wagyu is a type of Japanese beef with an intense marbling that pleases the eye and a high percentage of oleaginous unsaturated fat that is a pleasure for both the tongue and the teeth.
“It’s very tender,” a Saudi Arabian visitor said. “The flavor spreads in the mouth.”
Wagyu’s high quality is recognized around the world, but Japanese businesses are struggling to offer the beef in Islamic countries at affordable prices.
It is that whole halal thing. Under Shariah, or Islamic law, only certain foods are permissible to eat. If beef is to be halal, the cow it came from has to have been slaughtered in a certain way and the meat processed according to certain rules.
Following these regulations in the production process is expensive and increases the price of wagyu beef, which is not cheap to begin with.
According to the Japan Wagyu Beef Export Promotion Committee, which exhibited at the Gulfood fair, halal-safe wagyu beef can cost more than five times as much as the Aussie beef that is widely eaten in the UAE.
Middle Eastern consumers, the council determined, are going to have to be convinced that the high price is worth it.
So the council decided to use the fair and cook up a show of persuasion. Masami Ando, head of the Dubai branch of Japan External Trade Organization (Jetro), was in charge of blowing the horn for beef at the Gulfood fair. He said the exhibit also might have been effective in promoting a variety of beef cuts.
Originally published on www.asia.nikkei.com