East meets Middle East with Japanese halal beef

It's not the first place you think of for halal meat. But meat processing plants in Japan have begun catering to a growing interest in the Middle East by providing halal-certified meat.

Famous for their Kobe beef - the most expensive in the world for its rich flavor, tenderness and fatty marbling - the country's meat producers have begun turning their attention to an underserved market looking to taste this Japanese delicacy.

Zenkai Meat Corp., for instance, announced at the country's annual international food and beverage show FoodEx that they'll be launching domestic sales of halal beef. The largest food trade show in Asia kicked off March 1 and runs until March 4.

Zenkai's new foray into the Muslim market is in collaboration with partners in Indonesia and Malaysia - both predominantly Muslim countries.

It's been estimated that there are 115,000 to 125,000 Muslims living in Japan, 90 percent of whom are foreign-born. Japan is predominantly a Buddhist and Shintoist country.

Azhar Halal Foods, meanwhile, has been supplying the Muslim community in Japan with halal chicken since 1992, halal beef since 1994, and started exporting halal wagyu to the Middle East in 2007.

The wagyu cattle are known for enjoying the most pampered of bovine existences. It's believed, for instance, that massaging the cow and feeding it beer or sake aids in digestion and increases marbling, the characteristic that gives Kobe its trademark marbling and tenderness.

Japan's not the only Asian country eyeing the Muslim market. The Singapore tourism board launched a Muslim visitor's guide a few years ago complete with a list of halal restaurants in the hopes of drawing more tourists to the area.

http://zenkaimeat.jp/

http://www3.jma.or.jp/foodex/en/

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