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The 100,000 yen cheeseburger.

A lot of people are worried about Japan's economic prowess. Not me. They point to their dominance in electronics and automobiles, and their drive to become leaders in semiconductors and biotechnology.

Why do I shrug off Japan's global might? Because I know that the United States has a secret weapon that eventually will dethrone the king of the money heap. It's U.S. agriculture and the food industry. Farm trade between the U.S. and Japan represents the largest exchange of agricultural products on the face of the earth. For fiscal year '92, USDA estimates that Japan will purchase $8 billion of U.S. agricultural goods. About 20% of our agricultural exports are shipped to Japan.

U.S. beef and veal shipments to Japan are expected to hit 200,000 metric tons in '92, a 30% increase over '91. U.S. pork exports to Japan also are expected to grow 30% this year--topping 5 5,000 metric tons. Although the race is close, some observers believe that the U.S. has moved ahead of Australia as Japan's No. 1 beef importer.

Approximately one-fifth of Japan's food supply originates in the U.S. In other words, the average Japanese consumer relies on us for about 500 of his total daily intake of 2,600 calories.

What has been the result of Japan's affluence and infusion of Western diets? Dr. Adam Drewnowski, Director of the Human Nutrition Program at the University of Michigan, reports that the amount of fat in the Japanese diet has nearly tripled in the last 25 years. This year, the average Japanese consumed 25% more fat than in 1985.

U.S. ice cream exports to Japan seem to support Drewnowski's findings. Only $16,000 dollars in '88, U.S. ice cream sales to Japan exceeded $20 million last year.

While convenience foods, red meat, and fast food sales are rising, traditional Japanese staples are down. Rice--which represented about 50% of per capita caloric intake in 1960--has fallen to about 25% today.

What happens to a culture that has been eating rice and fish for eons when it is exposed to rich Western culinary delights? You got it. More cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, contentment, lethargy, and couch potatoes.

The result: the productivity and creativity gaps between Japanese and U.S. workers will disappear.

What's our next move to unseat Japan as a global economic powerhouse? Well, as soon as enough Japanese are hooked on fast foods, we plan to raise the price of a cheeseburger to 100,000 yen. Sure they'll scream in protest. But where else are they going to go for two all-beef patties with special sauce on a sesame seed bun.

End of trade deficit.

Bob Swientek


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Title Annotation:Opening Remarks
Author:Swientek, Bob
Publication:Food Processing
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Nov 1, 1992
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