Exports of Kobe beef to Saudi Arabia are set to begin next month for the first time. The high-grade meat is increasingly popular overseas, and Japanese industry officials are hoping to boost demand in the Middle East.
Kobe beef is the brand name for wagyu from the Tajima breed of cattle raised in Hyogo Prefecture, western Japan. It must meet strict quality standards, such as having well-marbled texture.
Representatives from an Islamic organization in Japan took part in a ceremony in Kobe City on Friday to mark the start of exports.
All food in Saudi Arabia must be Halal, meaning that it has been produced in accordance with Islamic law. Kobe beef destined for Saudi Arabia will be processed at a facility that complies with those standards.
A Muslim man described the beef as very tender and delicious. Another Muslim man said that wagyu beef has to be Halal-certified to be exported to Muslim markets. He added that "it is a shame that Muslims around the world haven't had the chance to taste it because there wasn't any halal."
The Kobe Beef Marketing and Distribution Promotion Association says demand for the beef at restaurants in Japan has dropped due to the coronavirus pandemic. Production costs are also rising.
It says it hopes to increase exports to help struggling domestic beef producers.