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Business trends

Wagyu seeks slice of South America, the land of beef

Prime Japanese cuts geared toward region's wealthy

Wagyu beef served at a Japanese barbecue restaurant. (Photo by Masaaki Kudo)

SAO PAULO -- Japan is promoting its prized wagyu beef in South America, hoping to make the premium cuts as famous as dishes like sushi and ramen.

The Japan External Trade Organization and Makoto, a U.S.-based operator of upscale Japanese restaurants, agreed Tuesday to collaborate on the effort in such countries as Brazil and Argentina. Wagyu will be served at a restaurant Makoto is planning to open in Sao Paulo. By putting the Japanese beef on the menu at a renowned restaurant, the trade organization hopes it will catch on.

Beef is a staple in South America, but people mostly eat lean meat and are less familiar with the more tender and fatty wagyu.

The high price will be a hurdle but the quality of wagyu will be accepted by the wealthy, said Luigi Cardoso, a chef at Makoto.

The same day, Jetro and the Japan consulate general in Sao Paulo held an event for media outlets to demonstrate how to cook the meat.

Last year, Brazil lifted an import ban on Japanese beef, but imports for commercial purposes have yet to begin.

Argentina, whose per-capita beef consumption is among the world's highest, already imports wagyu but Jetro is looking to boost its popularity.

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