Japanese consumers don't want U.S. beef? Tell that to Takanori Umeki, 24, a University of Tokyo graduate student who slept in line overnight outside a Tokyo shop to buy a "gyudon" beef-on-rice dish Monday, reports Kyodo News.

The University of Tokyo graduate student was among the first to buy one of 1 million servings offered Monday by Japanese fast-food restaurant giant, Yoshinoya D&C Co. The firm resumed limited sales of its signature dish following the lifting of a government ban on U.S. beef imports.

While some restaurant chains continued to offer gyudon during the ban enacted in late December 2003 by using Aussie and Chinese beef, Yoshinoya, which depended solely on U.S. beef for its bowls, decided to not follow suit. The firm, which is the largest gyudon chain in Japan, with 1,010 outlets, says it will continue to offer the dish on a limited basis due to the current low availability of U.S. product.

Meanwhile, a promotion in Tokyo gave consumers the choice of U.S., Japanese and Australian beef, and consumers chose the U.S. product. The Metropolitan Meat Trade Association, which represents about 1,500 Tokyo butcher shops, sponsored the event, which featured 500 free samples of beef each from the U.S., Japan and Australia. U.S. beef was the first to "sell out" and its booth attracted the most consumer attention, reports the U.S. Meat Export Federation.
-- Joe Roybal