Great Bend Japanese Consul General Takao Shibata told Kansas government and beef industry leaders on Wednesday it is important his country know what safety measures individual cattle-producing states are taking to protect their beef supplies.
Shibata, head of the Japanese Consulate in Kansas City, Mo., toured Great Bend Feeding, a 27,000-head feedlot in this central Kansas town, along with Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. She told reporters the state's beef logos are on trucks in Japan.
"We thought having him come to look at the operation was very important to the state," Sebelius said.
Asked whether the discovery of mad cow disease in a single cow in Washington state in December had changed his eating habits, Shibata said he had been in the United States long enough to acquire a taste for beef.
"I have 100 percent trust for the safety of beef I am eating here in Kansas," he said.
In the days after the mad cow discovery, Japan and dozens of other countries closed their markets to U.S. beef products.
The loss of export markets -- with Japan being the biggest consumer of U.S. beef -- represents a loss of 10 percent to 15 percent of the value of each animal, said Rich McKee, senior vice president for the Kansas Livestock Commission.
For Kansas -- a major cattle-producing state with vast feedlot and meatpacking industries -- the loss of export markets for beef tongue alone represents a loss of more than $1 million each week, McKee said.
Shibata told reporters after his tour that he was most impressed by the scale of the feeding operation, saying he had never seen so many cattle together in his own country.
"Our task here is to tell Tokyo, my authority, the measures you have taken in the state of Kansas," Shibata said. "I think it is important that everybody knows about how seriously you are trying to make sure of the safety of beef that you are eating."