A recent USMEF pork cooking seminar held for more than 30 high-profile Japanese bloggers has generated very positive reviews and more than a quarter of a million online media impressions for U.S. pork in the No. 1 value market for U.S. pork exports.
The event, held earlier this month in Tokyo, was conducted by famous author and blogger Junko Ooi, who writes the Yome chan blog for an estimated 70,000 consumers every day. Invited by USMEF-Tokyo to conduct the session, her reputation drew an overflow crowd to the seminar that was broadcast on oversized television screens so that all participants could see her pork preparation techniques.
USMEF-Japan invited only “power bloggers,” whose postings on a variety of consumer products and recipes are viewed by a minimum of 5,000 consumers daily.
“Of course, the safety of food we consume is most important for us,” wrote one blogger, Keiple Sylup, after the event. “American pork goes through many inspections in the U.S. before shipping. Only the products which pass the inspections could be shipped to Japan. That's why we can enjoy safe American pork free of any concern.”
The bloggers were given samples of several U.S. pork recipes to try, including back ribs, which were introduced to the Japan market last year by USMEF.
“It's the first time for me to taste back ribs,” wrote Keiple Sylup. “I will definitely get some back ribs and try her recipe. I am so glad that I went to the cooking event because I could learn a lot about American pork as well as Yome chan's recipe!”
In the blog Diary of a Healthy Working Girl, the author wrote about her conversation at the event with USMEF Vice-chair and Rensselaer, Ind. pork producer Danita Rodibaugh. “'What is your favorite pork dish?' I asked one of the producers and she said 'Tonkatsu!' But Tonkatsu in the U.S. is a little different than in Japan. She said that she coats pork with flour, egg and crushed sugar corn flakes, then bakes it in an oven. The sugar corn flakes make the Tonkatsu extra crispy. Sounds yummy. I would love to try it!”
The presence of four U.S. pork producers and National Pork Board CEO Chris Novak made an impression on the participants. The author of Tama's Café, who was seated at a table with NPB President and Larrabee, Iowa, pork producer Tim Bierman, wrote: “There are many U.S. pork producers at the event, and we learned a lot about safety, nutrition and wholesomeness of American pork. One of the producers at our table is taking care of 5,000 hogs with only help from his wife! It's amazing!”
The producers' presence also made an impression on the author of Nanohana Diary. “This tasting event completely changed my point of view of American pork,” she wrote. “I thought American pork is chewy and not tender, but it is not true at all. American pork is very versatile and delicious. At the event, one of the U.S. pork producers (Rodibaugh) sat next to me. She was a wonderful person and that made me feel that I could trust American pork for sure. I am very thankful that I could participate in this event.”
One blogger (Kuroobi for Karate) focused on the nutritional benefits of U.S. pork that she heard in the seminar. “U.S. pork producers succeeded in producing healthier pork with less calories, fat and cholesterol by making efforts such as reviewing feeds to fulfill consumers' needs,” she wrote. “I thought pork is fatty, but now I know American pork is actually low in calories, fat and cholesterol.”
“Initiatives like this bloggers program have proven invaluable for us in markets like Japan,” said Phil Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “The relationships our in-country team have developed with key bloggers help us get positive information to thousands of consumers with a single article. We reached more than a quarter of a million potential purchasers of U.S. pork with this single event.”
Rodibaugh, Bierman and Novak were joined at the seminar by NPB board members Henry Moore III of Clinton, North Carolina, and Conley Nelson of Algona, Iowa. The event was supported with funding from the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) and the Pork Checkoff.
In 2009, the United States exported 929 million pounds of pork to Japan valued at more than $1.5 billion. That represented nearly 23 percent of all U.S. pork exports by volume and nearly 36 percent by value.