Japan’s meat appetite breaks records

For the second year in a row, fewer people are eating at home in Japan

Japan’s meat consumption broke new records in the 2016 fiscal year (April 2015 to March 2016) according to recent data, with projected year-on-year growth set to be the fastest in five years.

Statistics released from the country’s Agriculture & Livestock Industries Corporation (ALIC) have indicated that Japanese consumers ate 4.75 million tonnes of chicken, beef and pork combined during this period. That was a rise of 3.4% on the previous year, delivering a 10th consecutive year of gains, noted analysis from Japan’s financial newspaper the Nikkei.

Industry experts agree that Japan’s appetite for meat shows no sign of waning. “As consumers seek cheaper and leaner proteins, chicken is continuing to grow in popularity,” an executive for a Nagoya-based poultry meat processing company told GlobalMeatNews.

Consumption of chicken in the home, which accounts for 40% of total consumption of this meat in Japan, is growing most rapidly, according to ALIC data reviewed by GlobalMeatNews. In 2016, it rose to 5,428 grams (g) per capita per year, a 2.8% increase on 2015, which had seen a rise of 3.1% on 2014.

Although pork remains the most popular meat in Japan, with 6,826g per person per year consumed at home in 2016, its growth rate has been slower – at 1.7% and 1.1% respectively over the past two years.

Beef consumption has risen too, although an ALIC official said the organisation did not have overall figures for this segment. The official noted that, in 2016, more Japanese consumers chose to eat beef at restaurants and bars (which accounts for 70% of beef consumption) than at home. ALIC believes this trend is due, in part, to the growing number of yakiniku barbecue restaurants nationwide.
 
“The growth of cheap US beef imports has resulted in a rise in total beef consumption,” said Shiho Futamata, a spokesperson for ALIC.

However, she was not sure what the impact of US beef imports would be next year: “Because of this strong correlation between US imports and Japan’s level of consumption, it is not possible to predict beef consumption levels for 2018.”

That said, for the second year in a row, fewer people are eating beef at home, with home-based consumption down 3.6% during 2016 year-on-year. But temporary spikes in beef sales for home use have been pronounced in 2016 during key seasonal events. “Beef is traditionally eaten during Obon [a festival held nationwide to honour ancestors], causing a peak in August, while Christmas events and year-end gifts boosted sales in November and December,” said Futamata.

Data also showed increased home consumption of chicken and pork at the year-end as well as during October — popular for outdoor community events to which people bring meaty lunchboxes, and March — a time of dinner parties to mark graduation, farewells and entry into jobs at companies.
 
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD) and the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) have estimated that Japan’s pork consumption per capita will increase 2.8% between 2015 and 2024, while poultry meat consumption may rise 1.8%.

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