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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Japanese melons and beef now protected brands

Maybe it's just me, but that headline sounds dirty, even though the spelling is correct.

There's a list in Japan… that names names… brand names that are now protected as regional brands… which it hopes will enhance its branding and sales… but also as a means of protecting the brand from competing products that may arise from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The list, which prior to December 22, 2015 only contained liquor (that sounds dirty, too), now has seven additional regional Japanese food items on it:
  • Kobe beef from Hyogo-ken

  • Tajima beef also from Hyogo-ken;

  • Yubari King melons (夕張メロン Yūbari Meron)… a hybrid cantaloupe made from cantaloupe cultivars: Earl's Favourite and Burpee's "Spicy" Cantaloupe. No… really. From Hokkaido;

  • Edosaki kabocha (Edosaki pumpkin… but really a form of buttercup squash) from Ibaraki-ken;

  • Aomori cassis from Aomori-ken. I don't even know what a cassis is. Apparently the Japanese term is Aomori-shi Fureai Nouen, and apparently, from the looks of it, it is a currant fruit. Probably something healthy for you that doesn't taste as good as you hope;

  • Yame desto hon gyokuro green tea from Fukuoka-ken, and;
  • Kagoshima no Tsubozukuri kurozu black vinegar from Kagoshima-ken

By being added to the 'geographic indication' list, these specific products (brands) can now add a special logo to the packaging designating them as such, but really, according to Japan, it's to ensure the consumer that these 'local' Japanese products are quality products and not a knock-off.

What the hell is the Trans-Pacific Partnership? Don't worry if you don't know… I didn't either before this.

The gist of it is:
  • it's a trade agreement amongst the 12 Pacific Rim countries: Japan, Canada, U.S., Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Brunei, Chile, Singapore, Vietnam and Vietnam.
  • In theory, its goal is to promote economic growth; support the creation and retention of jobs; enhance innovation, productivity and competitiveness; raise living standards; reduce poverty in the member countries; promote transparency, good governance and enhanced labor and environmental protections.
Basically, it's to lower trade barriers… and that's why Japan has created the 'geographic indication' list that will protect itself from its partners trying to horn in by selling its cheaper goods in Japan.

So... when you buy a product with the special Japanese designation logo, you'll know it's not made in some inferior processing country like Canada. That's sarcasm, by the way… but I understand the need to protect one's self.

Wagyu beef, for example, can be culled from cattle around the world, including Australia. Wagyu (和牛) is any of several breeds of Japanese cow… but the cows will, genetically, have meat that contains more fat marbling than others.

So… cows that come under the wagyu moniker are: Kobe; Mishima; Matsusaka; Ōmi; and Sanda.

Here's the thing… these cows might be Japanese, but they don't have to be born or raised or culled there.

Wagyu cattle farms exist in Japan, Canada, Australia, Scotland, and, of course, Australia.

Note that in Japan, Japanese Black (黒毛和種 Kuroge Washu) makes up about 90% of all the slaughtered cows in Japan, and includes the Tajima (on the list), Tottori, Shimane and Okayama. For the record, the other three types of wagyu cow along with the Japanese Black are: Japanese Brown (赤毛和種 Akage Washu - but also sometimes called the Japanese Red); Japanese Polled (無角和種 Mukaku Washu), and the Japanese Shorthorn (日本短角和種 Nihon Tankaku Washu), which also sounds dirty, only less so.

Okay, back to the TPP free trade agreement… as a citizen of Canada and it's North America Free Trade Agreement - NAFTA - I can say that it will have its pluses and minuses for each member country… and one's feelings towards the TPP will be tempered or engaged depending on how it affects the individual.

So… Japan, to better protect itself, is going to continue to expand its region-specific designation food products, with Japan's Farm Ministry minister Moriyama Hiroshi (surname first) noting that the ministry has nearly 50 applications for the region designation (including the seven just added).

Japan's national government has already set penalties for any company that utilizes an unauthorized logo or use of the name of a designated product. While the warning is to other countries like Canada and its incredible ability to create food products that look like exact replicas of others (that's me kidding), it is a warning to every other global country as well as it its own national processors and manufacturers.

Anyhow, the next time any one of you dear readers is down in New Zealand, please pick me up some "melons".

Andrew Joseph

1 comment:

  1. I'm surprised you didn't mention that the melon looks dirty.