High-end Japanese retailers are stocking Irish beef for the first time, with the retailer Isetan having brought grass-fed Irish beef to the shelves of its flagship store in Shinjuku.

Co Longford-based dry-aged beef specialists John Stone has made an agreement with Isetan to supply its food halls and 14 of its restaurants with grass-fed Irish beef.

Bord Bia launched the product along with Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue as part of an ongoing trade mission promoting Irish agri-food goods in southeast Asia.

The move comes three years after Kojima Shoten CEO Yasunari Kojima was hosted by Bord Bia on an Irish beef farm.

Double-digit growth

Interim Bord Bia CEO Michael Murphy stated that Irish beef was enjoying double-digit growth in the Japanese market.

“The sale of Irish beef in one of the world’s most prestigious department stores is a strong endorsement of the quality and reputation of Irish beef from farm to fork. Irish beef(*) exports to Japan rose in value by 28% to reach €28m last year,” said Murphy.

“While the majority of these exports are imported frozen and destined for food service and manufacturing, today’s launch reflects the growing opportunity for Irish beef to find a niche among premium suppliers, with trade buyers showing increasing interest in Irish grass-fed beef,” he commented.


Grass-fed Irish beef will be competing with traditional Japanese grain-finished Wagyu on supermarket shelves.

Bord Bia has cited taste tests it undertook with 300 Japanese consumers, which showed that the majority of participants favoured Irish beef over an Australian grass-fed equivalent.

The trial also found consumers there to have positive perceptions around the healthiness of grass-fed beef.

The product

John Stone managing director Tim Stone commented that the retailer would allow for Irish beef to enjoyed in the highest-quality taste experience possible.

“John Stone is delighted to give Japanese consumers the opportunity to enjoy our specially selected Irish grass-fed beef, at home and across 14 eclectic menus on the restaurant floor at Isetan.

“John Stone has found the ideal commercial partner in Mr Kojima and Isetan and we look forward to working closely with them into the future, aided by the in-market support of Bord Bia,” he said.

Trade mission

Bord Bia has been better able to support Irish agri-food firms exporting to Japan after establishing its Tokyo office three years ago, the agency’s southeast Asia director Ciaran Gallagher said.

“Irish exports to Japan have been growing rapidly in recent years, with total exports increasing in value by 56% from €112m in 2018 to €175m last year,” stated Gallagher.

“Building lasting trade relationship in Japan takes time and a strong understanding of local business nuances.

“For that reason, Bord Bia established the Tokyo office in 2019 to build local contacts, gather market and consumer insight and support Irish exporters on-the-ground,” he explained.

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