• The Associated Press

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The fast-food chain that made its fame on a rice dish topped with American beef announced Wednesday that “gyodon” will return Sept. 18 after a two-year hiatus caused by the mad cow scare.

But Yoshinoya D&C Co. will have just 1 million servings, which are likely to sell out before the day is over, Yoshinoya President Shuji Abe said.

The chain, which operates about 1,000 restaurants nationwide, won’t be able to regularly offer its famous gyudon, as it can’t procure a sufficient supply of American beef because of the government’s decision to allow in only U.S. beef from cattle aged 20 months or younger.

Yoshinoya said it will offer 1 million servings a day for the first five days in October and for the same period in November.

Although some kinds of Australian beef can produce the flavor and texture needed for the Yoshinoya beef bowl, American beef is best, Yoshinoya spokesman Yasunori Yoshimura said. Its availability was not a problem in the past because many large U.S. ranches were shipping.

“We are in a bit of a bind,” he said. “But serving the American beef bowl even on a limited basis will be a definite plus for our business.”

Another reason for gyudon’s popularity was its affordable 280 yen price. The beef bowl arriving later this month will sell for 380 yen.

The supply of American beef is so tight that Yoshinoya will also be using Mexican and Australian beef, Abe said.

Japanese beef is much more expensive than American beef. Top-grade Japanese cows are fed beer and pampered with massages to produce fat-laden meat savored as a delicacy for traditional dishes like sukiyaki beef and vegetables in a broth.

Abe has long been one of the most outspoken critics of the beef ban, saying that American beef is safe. But he denied he had any complaints against the authorities and was just happy bringing back the beef bowl.

“I’m filled with joy now about being able to make it and offer it,” he told reporters at a Tokyo hotel.

Left without its prized dish, Yoshinoya saw its earnings sink into the red in fiscal 2004 and fiscal 2005. It is forecasting a profit for this year.

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