While recovery efforts continue in Japan following the devastating March 11 earthquake, the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) in Japan is finding an ongoing need for the relief activities funded by generous U.S. producers.
Recently, USMEF organized two events that provided a hot meal of U.S. beef and pork to more than 1,600 displaced people in the northern regions of Japan.
Last week in the city of Onagawa in the Miyagi Prefecture, USMEF worked with 30 staff members from the Gyukaku yakiniku restaurant chain to provide beef and pork bowls and soup to more than 1,200 people at a public school shelter.
The USMEF staff and Gyukaka personnel served more than 150 kilograms (330 pounds) each of U.S. pork and beef to the shelter residents who offered their heartfelt thanks to the American producers who financed the relief effort.
"It has been quite a while since I had beef and pork," said one person at the shelter. "Actually, more than a month." Another said: "It is such an encouragement that the U.S. industry would come all the way to Ishinomaki help people. Thank you from the bottom of my heart."
Despite their hardship, the residents at the shelter expressed their relief at surviving the quake and resulting tsunami. Their town was hit by a 25-foot wall of water less than an hour after the earthquake, and many who returned to their homes after the tremor subsided were carried out to sea by the waves.
The second event of the week was conducted with a nonprofit-organization called Lake Kawaguchi Kids' Nature School that owns a camping site near Mt. Fuji. The school invited more than 400 parents and children from the Tohoku area to stay free of charge at the campsite for six weeks or more, as needed.
USMEF donated beef sirloin and pork loin for the meal, at which Tazuko Hijikata, USMEF-Japan's senior manager of consumer affairs, spoke to the displaced families to explain how the U.S. red meat industry had banded together to provide resources to aid those affected by the Japan earthquake.
The families who enjoyed the meal expressed their gratitude to the U.S. industry for its support. "We are very impressed and appreciative for the contribution of the U.S. industry," said one participant, while another added "meat gives us the power to live."
U.S. producers have donated more than $500,000 to the USMEF Japan Relief Effort thus far.