USDA expects almost $400 million in U.S. beef products to sell in Japan this fiscal year, which would be about a third of its export level to Japan before that island nation banned U.S. beef in December 2003. That according to a report by Australia's ABC Journal that quotes USDA Economist Monte Vandeveer.

Helping that effort along is a report this week that the Japanese restaurant chain Zenshoku planned to resume, perhaps as early as this week, serving U.S. beef in its 57 Korean barbecue restaurants across Japan, the Japan Times reports. If so, it would be the first chain to do so since the government eased its import ban last month.

The report says the company's president and officials visited two plants in California and Colorado earlier this month and confirmed they meet Japanese safety standards. The chain plans to show a videotape of the inspection trip at its outlets to put customers at ease over whether U.S. beef is safe to consume.

"We think that we should be able to have a choice," Zenshoku spokeswoman Tae Okuda says. "Compared with imported beef from other countries, American beef is more suitable for Korean barbecue as the meat is juicy."
-- Joe Roybal