Japanese beef region eases foot-and-mouth restrictions

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Japan's prime beef region on Thursday eased travel restrictions imposed three months ago to contain a severe outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

After culling more than 276,000 animals since the outbreak was detected in April, the Miyazaki prefecture in southern Japan will lift limits on public access, officials said.

Miyazaki is home to Wagyu cattle, which produce the prized Kobe beef and are famous for being pampered, fed beer and massaged daily, sometimes with sake, and even treated to classical music for relaxation.

The beef is sought-after worldwide for its intense marbling with mostly unsaturated fat, and the variety from Miyazaki typically wholesales for around 160 to 320 dollars a kilogramme in Japan.

The restrictions, aimed at curbing the spread of the highly contagious virus, will however continue to be enforced in animal farming areas, governor Hideo Higashikokubaru said.

"We must not drop our guard," he said.

The prefecture will continue to run checkpoints to disinfect vehicles in an effort to prevent the spread of the disease.

The outbreak, Japan's first since 2000, spread quickly and forced the mass slaughter and a farm disinfection programme.

Most livestock affected were pigs but some of the region's most prized stud bulls were also culled at infected farms.

The highly contagious virus has brought to a halt beef and pork exports from the affected area, crippling Miyazaki's premium beef industry.