Seven & I Holdings Co. on Saturday started selling U.S. beef imported under the government’s eased restrictions on cattle aged 30 months or younger.
Ito-Yokado and York-Benimaru, which both operate under the Seven & I umbrella, are the first major supermarket chains to begin offering U.S. beef imported since the Japanese regulations were relaxed on Feb. 1, according to the holding company.
Beef shipments from the United States had been limited to cattle 20 months or younger to reduce the risk of consumers contracting mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
Three Ito-Yokado stores in Tokyo started selling the beef Saturday, while another three of its York-Benimaru stores — two in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, and one in Oyama, Tochigi Prefecture — were to follow suit Sunday.
The beef will retail for around 20 to 50 percent less than before the rules were eased.
At the three Ito-Yokado supermarkets, a 100-gram package of U.S. sirloin was going for ¥278 on Saturday, compared with an average price of ¥398 in January.
Seven & I is having an initial 3 tons of the beef flown into the country for sale at the six stores.
The company plans to start offering the beef at all of its stores and outlets by March after additional shipments arrive by sea.
“It is said that the older the cattle is, the better the beef tastes,” a public relations official at Seven & I said.
Among other major supermarket operators, Seiyu GK and Daiei Inc. intend to begin selling U.S. beef imports under the new rules from around March.