Aficionados of the highly-textured marbled internationally renowned beef known as wagyu have better brace themselves for a steep rise in the already astronomical price of this delicacy.
More than 200,000 cows in Miyazaki, Japan (which supplies the prized cattle to nearby Kobe) were culled in the last week, all due to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease.(not to be confused with hand,foot and mouth disease which affects humans). This outbreak has forced Japan to stop its exports of wagyu to the rest of the world, with exports plunging from 77 tons in April to 9 tons in May this year. Of the foreign markets, only Hong Kong and Macau are still importing, but from designated slaughter-houses declared disease-free.
So if foot and mouth disease doesn’t generally affect humans, what’s the big deal? Well, economically, countries which have livestock, especially cattle, will be one of the first to put a trade ban to prevent spread of this highly infectious disease. The UK outbreak in 2007 was a clear example of what the EU was prepared to do. So the Japanese farmers are not spared too.. (see here).
So lovers of wagyu steak may now have to resort to that bred in countries like Australia and New Zealand…not quite the original stuff but quite close to it.