Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Japan's Beef Bans Hits Prime Eateries

Restaurants Scramble for Wagyu Cuts After Japan Suspends Exports; Butchers Field Frantic Calls


The $250 steak's days are numbered on some of the area's finest menus as Japan has temporarily banned exports of its prized Wagyu beef.

Japanese officials suspended beef exports last week after cows tested positive for foot-and-mouth disease at farms in the southern part of the country. That means no Japanese-imported Wagyu, the cattle breed that produces the premium beef famous for its flavor, tenderness and high price-tag.

"Everyone that buys from us has called up and said, 'How much do you have left, lock it up for me?' " said George Faison, chief operating officer at De-Bragga & Spitler, a meat supplier in the Meatpacking District. "We only have 500 pounds left."

Though a menu item on a select handful of restaurants in the region, chefs are bemoaning the loss of the pricey meat, sometimes referred to on menus as Kobe. "We buy beef from a distributor in Japan," said Oscar Martinez, chef at the Old Homestead Steak House. "It's going to affect us a great deal because we're known for Kobe. It's one of the more popular dishes, and we have regular customers and Japanese clientele that come to us just for that..."

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