Here's the beef

January 13, 2006 12:00 am

The Baker County Chamber and Visitors Center wants to lure more journalists to Baker County in 2006.

We'd suggest they work with Travel Oregon and Oregon Bounty to make that push include the Far East. There's much to gain by inviting the Japanese to come see Oregon's cattle country right now.

Japan consumed roughly 15 percent of the beef produced in the Northwest, and the U.S. filled roughly half of Japan's demand for beef, until December 2003.

That's when detection of BSE in a cow in Washington closed the beef trade between our two countries, much to the chagrin of producers here and consumers there.

Japanese consumers want safe beef. Who doesn't? But they also want tasty beef — and U.S. beef in particular.

The two-year ban on U.S. beef imports strained Japanese restaurateurs and consumers alike. But now the wait is over, and our two countries are resuming cattle trade.

Inviting Japanese journalists to come see how and where American beef is raised could be a boon for Oregon, and Baker County.

Many local ranches are members of Oregon Country Natural Beef, a producer cooperative whose standards meet the scrutiny of big city shoppers.

The co-op member's ranches are in locales, from the Baker to the Sumpter to the Keating valleys, that provide dramatic backdrops that scream "American West!" to a Japanese populace interested in Americana.

And news media the world over like getting more bang for their reporting buck. A Japanese journalist visiting Oregon could bring home stories about both beef and sight-seeing that would benefit their readers and viewers.