U.S. pork sales in Japan totaled $1.54B in 2009, nearly matching the all-time value record of $1.545B set in 2008, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation.

The number held despite a 15% global slump in the pork industry, a 1.5% decline in Japanese foodservice sales, and overall Japanese supermarket sales that were the lowest in 21 years, the federation reported. The United States now holds 46% of the imported pork market share in Japan (up steadily from 30% in 2004) and 72% of the chilled pork market.

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“Because of its strong currency and financial stability, there has been a tendency to think of Japan as an oasis in the global economic downturn,” said Philip Seng, president and CEO of the U.S. Meat Export Federation. “But obviously when you’re facing tough economic conditions, it’s important to feature products that appeal to a wide range of consumers. The U.S. meat industry’s ability to deliver products of tremendous quality, value and versatility has been critical to the success we are seeing in Japan.”

Through the end of February, the federation is conducting winter retail promotions showcasing U.S. pork loin, belly and cellar trimmed butt as featured ingredients in traditional winter dishes, such as nabe (hot pot) and stewed-pork favorites kakuni and nibuta. Support for these promotions is provided by the Pork Checkoff and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Market Access Program.