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European Meat Buyers Tour U.S. Pork Industry

(from left to right) Barry Lock, Cranswick; Jeroen Van Der Weijden, Van Der Mey; Neil Willis, Cranswick; Martin Zvonicek and Milan Bujna, Bidvest Group; Jack Van Der Mey;  Monty Brown, USMEF representative

(from left to right) Barry Lock, Cranswick; Jeroen Van Der Weijden, Van Der Mey; Neil Willis, Cranswick; Martin Zvonicek and Milan Bujna, Bidvest Group; Jack Van Der Mey; Monty Brown, USMEF representative

This week USMEF hosted a team of executives from Europe’s meat processing sector for a firsthand look at U.S. pork industry research, production and merchandising practices. The delegation included:

  • Milan Bujna and Martin Zvonicek of Bidvest Group. Bujna works for Bidvest’s operations in Slovakia, while Zvonicek is based in the Czech Republic.
  • Jack Van Der Mey and Jeroen Van Der Weijden of Van Der Mey, a ham and bacon processor based in the Netherlands.
  • Neil Willis and Barry Lock of Cranswick, based in the United Kingdom.

Accompanying the team was Monty Brown, USMEF representative for Europe and Africa.

The group first visited the JBS pork plant in Worthington, Minnesota. Its next stop was at Iowa State University (ISU) in Ames, for a presentation on bacon processing techniques and other pork industry research conducted at the ISU meat laboratory. Dr. Dermot Hayes, ISU economics professor and pork industry analyst, provided the group with an overview of current pork price trends and global market conditions.

The week concluded in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, with a tour of Clemens Food Group headquarters and an explanation of the company’s operations and processing practices. Clemens is the latest U.S. company to have facilities approved to supply pork to the European Union.

“Following this visit to the United States, we now have a much better appreciation of the high quality of the U.S. production process,” said Willis, who serves as managing director at one of Cranswick’s processing facilities in Preston, U.K. “As buyers we are always looking for alternative choices in terms of supply, and feel there could be future business opportunities utilizing U.S. pork.”

Dan Halstrom, USMEF senior vice president for marketing, noted that even in a period of ample pork supplies in Europe, buyers in the EU are interested in examining alternatives.

“The EU is a very challenging environment at the present time, given the supply and exchange rate situation,” Halstrom explained, “That may not always be the case, however, and European processors are looking for medium and long-term solutions to their supply needs. That was the main objective of this tour – to ensure that these buyers understand that there are high-quality pork supply options here in the United States.”