Beef ban forces Yoshinoya to pull ‘gyudon’ from menu
TOKYO — Japanese restaurant chain Yoshinoya plans to pull its popular “beef bowl” from menus next month in accordance with the Japanese government’s ban on U.S. beef imports.
The restaurant chain, with locations near several U.S. military bases in Japan, obtains 99 percent of its meat for its gyudon — a bowl of stewed beef over rice — from U.S. sources, company spokesman Haruhiko Kizu said. The company’s beef supply will run out in mid-February.
The Japanese government decided Dec. 26 to ban U.S. beef imports after bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, was found Dec. 24 in a 6-year-old Holstein dairy cow in Washington state.
Kizu says the company cannot quickly replace its U.S. beef supply with meat from other countries. Beef from other sources, he said, varies in quantity, taste and price.
“We do not know when we can serve gyudon again to our customers,” Kizu said. “It will be when the government removes the ban.”
A team of U.S. representatives led by Agriculture Department Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services J.B. Penn arrived in Japan on Thursday to discuss mad cow disease issues and ask Japan to reopen imports of beef from the United States.
Officials say they’ll replace beef dishes with meals containing either chicken or pork.
Yoshinoya opened its first gyudon house in Tokyo in 1899 and has grown into the country’s No. 1 gyudon chain with 987 chain restaurants in Japan and 222 abroad, including 81 in the United States.
Company sales last year — based on the import of 30,000 tons of beef from the United States — totaled $865 million, Kizu said.