‘Yakiniku’ beef back on national palate

Sales at “yakiniku” grilled-beef restaurants have recovered to levels seen before the outbreak of mad cow disease in Japan in September 2001, according to the results of an industry survey released Sunday.

The recovery apparently reflects public confidence in the safety of beef due to the government’s inspection of all beef sold for human consumption.

“Sales during holiday periods, such as Golden Week and Bon, have recovered to previous levels,” said an official at the All Japan Yakiniku Association.

The report was based on a survey of credit card receipts at 102 of the association’s member restaurants.

Compared with the base of 100 for the early part of September 2001, — just before the discovery of the first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in Japan — sales in the following month fell to an average 55.6 percent.

Sales gradually began to recover due to the government inspections of cows, however, and by March last year had almost returned to the levels of early September 2001.

Despite the ups and downs caused by corporate beef-mislabeling scandals, average sales in August 2002, which is when yakiniku consumption usually rises, topped 100 for the first time, reaching 106.2 percent.

Some large declines were later seen, attributed partly to the economic slump, but sales have been constantly exceeding 100 percent since January this year, the survey showed.