Zensho Beef: An International Success
From left, JBS S.A. CEO Wesley Batista, Takashi
Miura and Zensho founder Kentaro Ogawa.
June 14, 2011
Zensho Group is a Tokyo-based company that focuses on safe and abundant food for restaurants and other customers. With its impressive scope and size, Zensho’s steady demand would clearly make it an excellent client for JBS – but until recently, Japanese concerns about bovine spongiform encephalopathy (or BSE, commonly known as mad-cow disease) were standing in the way. Enter the JBS international sales team, along with several important players from Five Rivers and the Cactus, Texas, processing plant: Now we’ve got a robust new program in place and an important new beef-export deal.
The original problem with selling to Zensho was that the company wanted to brand its beef, but U.S. feeding guidelines didn’t meet the company's branding plans. In 2003, in fact, Zensho requested that all U.S. beef be 100% tested for BSE and stopped purchasing any beef that was not – which effectively cut out all U.S.-based supply. As Japanese demand for quality beef increased, however, the company recognized a growing need for high-quality sources.
In 2010, Zensho officials traveled to the United States in search of a workable solution to the supply problem that would get around its self-imposed ban while meeting the company’s marketing needs. It wasn’t long before Zensho realized that most U.S. beef producers were too far removed from their cattle sources to pull together a new and specialized program, but while meeting with agricultural officials in Washington, D.C., Zensho found its way to Chandler Keys, JBS’s vice president of government and industry relations. Chandler put the company in touch with the international sales team in Greeley.
Together with Five Rivers Cattle Feeding and the Cactus processing plant, international sales helped create a specialized program for Zensho that ensured a robust supply of specially fed cattle to match the company’s requirements, along with a specialized processing line that included new training and expertise and a Zensho representative on-site in Cactus.
Altogether, the international sales team notes that the partnership between JBS and Zensho was a direct result of JBS’s ability to be flexible and to react fast. JBS wasn’t the only supplier they approached, but because of our structure, we were the only ones who could meet their requirements. That ability to flex and respond to a specific customer request is a direct result of CEO Wesley Batista’s vision for JBS and the company’s series of acquisitions over the past several years. The team also credits the expertise of Five Rivers as well as the team at Cactus, which has been phenomenal in responding and in their attention to quality.
The first shipment of Zensho beef went out in November of 2010, and Batista helped celebrate that success by flying to Japan and meeting with Zensho founder Kentaro Ogawa when it arrived. Shipments have been ongoing since then, and in the next two months, JBS will process close to 20,000 cattle in the program. The Greeley plant will be involved with this increased volume, as well, and the program is expected to expand to more cattle in the future. The Zensho team is very pleased with the quality and service, and overall the program has been so successful that the biggest problem is going to be supply. In other words, they simply want more.