"Sell that whale meat!"[UPDATED: 09/14] My translation is completed now, and having done so I realize that Yomiuri's English version already have their own translation. It's worth reading anyway to see the contrast with mine. Some interesting things to note:
Whale upgraded to Izakaya regular / promoted in catered lunces
Food companies and restaurants dealing in whale meat are increasing. This is due to whaling interests getting serious about expanding consumption as whale meat stocks, marketed as food, have increased.
Whale meat sales are an essential source of revenue for research whaling. This is an urgent matter for interested parties, as further research whaling may be hindered if whale meat consumption is not increased.
+ Health Food PR +
Whale meat eaten by consumers is mainly that of whales caught in research whaling which are subsequently processed and sold. The Foundation conducting research whaling, the Institute of Cetacean Research markets the meat through Kyodo Senpaku, the Tokyo-based company to which the actual whaling operations are contracted out to.
Recently Kyodo Senpaku and others have been strengthening their sales efforts, and instances of foodstuff companies and restaurants starting sales of whale meat are increasing.
Since March, Nippon Ham subsidiary company Hoko Co. Ltd. has been selling 3 types of new whale meat products, such as boiled retort and canned yakiniku. Hoko expects the products will be accepted if they are able to remind baby boomers of the flavour of the whale meat that they ate in the past.
Last November, Chimney Group added 7 whale meat items, including tatsuta-age and whale sashimi, to the menu at all of it's 200 "Hananomai" seafood izayaka-style restaurants. Previously these items had been seasonal offerings, but they have now had a "status upgrade" to regulars on the menu. The price of whale tatsuta-age is 50% higher than chicken kara-age, but it's said to be amongst the 10 most popular products in terms of earnings.
Elsewhere, major food retailer Maruetsu has had 10 products including whale sashimi on sale since June last year.
The Institute of Cetacean Research and others are also aiming to increase sales routes, and in May this year established a private company "Geishoku Labo" in Tokyo, which is selling whale meat to the catered lunch market including hospitals and universities.
Geishoku Labo representative Hiroshi Nakata promotes whale meat, saying "It's high in protein, and low in calories. The old image of it being a tough meat has been addressed through advances in freezing technology".
Glut of the "forgotten taste"
+ Stocks double in 10 years +
The reason for urgency in selling whale meat is because the supply of whale meat products has increased greatly, but consumption has been stagnant.
The Institute of Cetacean Research has increased the number of whale species taken subject for the purpose of detailed research into current population statuses, which has seen the supply of whale meat increase from 2450 tonnes in fiscal 2000 to 5560 tonnes in fiscal 2005.
However, consumption hasn't increased as expected. The International Whaling Commission decided on a temporary pause (moratorium) on commercial whaling in 1982, and as Japan ceased commercial whaling in 1988, average whale meat consumption per person has dropped from approximately 2000 grams 40 years ago to approximately 50 grams in 2005.
As a result, the annual average whale meat stocks stored in refrigeration increased by 45% on the previous year in 2005 to 3945 tonnes, approximately twice the size of 10 years ago.
Last year in December, the Institute of Cetacean Research which sets wholesale prices also reduced them by 20%, and this year from January through July, whale meat sales increased by 50% compared to last year, but stocks have not yet been reduced.
The Fisheries Agency Whaling Division sees a contributing factor as consumers having developed an image of whale meat being difficult to obtain, in a the phenomenon of the younger generation shying away from whale meat has also been identified.
Unsold stocks... problems for research whaling?
Of the 6 billion yen annual costs of research whaling, about 90% is paid for by whale meat sales. As such, if whale meat doesn't sell, this may have an impact on research whaling plans.
As the Institute of Cetacean Research also plans to increase the number of whales taken for research from fiscal 2007, forecasts are that supply of whale meat to the markets will increase to an annual 7,000 to 8,000 tonnnes. If consumption doesn't increase, and stocks build up further, there is a concern that funds may be insufficient to cover the research costs.
Additionally, Japan is pressing for a resumption in commercial whaling at the IWC. At this year's annual IWC meeting in June, a declaration sponsored by Japan and other whaling supporters was adopted with a 1 vote majority, including words to the effect that the temporary pause in commercial whaling is "unneccessary". However, if it seems that consumption isn't increasing smoothly, this may have repercussions in the international debate surrounding whaling.
(2006/09/05 Yomiuri Shinbun)
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