"The 1% are hurting too, people"

The most expensive meat in the world is getting a little cheaper to produce.

Japanese farmers who raise wagyu cattle for 200-gram steaks that can fetch more than ¥30,000 at the poshest restaurants have been struggling to stay in business as their expenses rise faster than income. The young calves they buy and then nurture for 20 months cost more than ever before, and feed for the animals surged to the highest price in three decades.

But a plunge in shipping rates during the global commodity slump is allowing Japanese beef producers to import the most European barley ever, because it is far less expensive than the crops from Australia the cattle normally eat.

While profit margins remain tight for wagyu — with its honeycomb of taste-enhancing fat embedded in the meat — the shift in feed supplies is providing relief for farmers like Toshio Sotome, who Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is counting on to help boost food exports.