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Friday, Feb. 9, 2007

Miyazaki outlet sees chicken sell out after governor blessing


Staff writer

Despite the bird-flu outbreaks last month on farms in Miyazaki Prefecture, the famous chicken from the prefecture is flying off the shelves at least one Tokyo store.

News photo
Customers eat grilled chicken Thursday at Shinjuku Miyazaki-kan in Tokyo. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

Shinjuku Miyazaki-kan, which sells products from the prefecture, has had a huge leap in sales thanks to an endorsement by Miyazaki's comedian-turned-Gov. Hideo Higashikokubaru. Miyazaki chicken farmers have not seen the usual plummet in sales after a string of avian flu outbreaks last month, including several of the highly virulent H5N1 strain.

In comparison, the nationwide outbreak of norovirus, typically found in shellfish, this winter caused a sharp decline in oyster sales.

Sales of chicken skyrocketed at Shinjuku Miyazaki-kan after Higashikokubaru appeared on national TV Jan. 29 eating chicken at the store.

Higashikokubaru, called Sonomanma Higashi when he was a comedian, has been stalked by mobs of reporters and camera crews ever since he took office last month.

He used the opportunity to eat the grilled chicken for the media, claiming it is absolutely safe.

"Some people come to buy the packaged chicken to show their support for the new governor," Toshikatsu Kawano, manager of Shinjuku Miyazaki-kan, said Thursday. "Others seem to be here because they saw the products on TV."

The store normally sells about 150 packages of chicken per day. But the day after Higashikokubaru appeared on TV, it sold 830, and has been selling about 1,000 on the weekends.

One 53-year-old woman from Tokyo, who only gave her last name as Kumagai, said she came to the store for the first time after she watched the governor take a bite on TV.

"I am worried about the bird-flu incident," Kumagai said. "But the unsafe chickens have been destroyed, so I think what is in the store is safe."

Customer Makiko Shiga said she was not worried about bird flu in the store's chicken.

"Miyazaki chicken became my favorite when I was living there," said Shiga, who bought three packages. "Now that I have moved to Tokyo, I come here every now and then to buy it."

More than 200,000 birds were culled in the nation's top chicken producing region last month to stop the spread of bird flu.

The farm ministry said the odds of someone catching bird flu are very low, even after eating infected chicken and eggs, but recommended cooking risky items at 70 degrees or higher.

For more stories related to bird influenza.



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