Demand-Building Event in Lebanon Spotlights Advantages of U.S. BeefPublished: Thursday, September 8th, 2016
Focusing on the advantages of importing U.S. beef into Lebanon, a market with a growing hospitality industry, USMEF hosted a “Demand Building Initiative and Carvery Night” in Beirut. The event, which attracted hotel managers, executive chefs, foodservice agents and catering operators, was the first of its kind in Lebanon and was funded by the USDA Market Access Program and the Beef Checkoff Program.
Alternative cuts such as chuck, hanging tender, short ribs, sirloin and brisket were emphasized, along with more traditional cuts like tenderloin and ribeye.
Local importers and distributors who helped pioneer the emergence of high-quality chilled and frozen U.S. beef in the Lebanese market were recognized by USMEF during the event, while prospective buyers and importers were encouraged to connect with U.S. suppliers.
Media coverage of the event was significant, as reporters, editors and directors from trade magazines Hospitality News and Layalina were in attendance, along with major newspaper Al Balad. Articles about the U.S. beef event were expected to appear in August and September issues of those publications. A Hospitality News photo feature can be found here.
USMEF representatives explained to chefs the distinct qualities that differentiate U.S. beef from competitors’ products. Effort was also made to familiarize managers with profitable menu concepts that utilize U.S. beef. Attendees were presented an overview of the U.S. beef industry and production process – from farm to table – and given guidance on import processes and the availability of U.S. beef.
Demonstration sessions were conducted by Youssef Akiki, executive chef of Burgundy Restaurant, who is considered one of the most knowledgeable Lebanese chefs when it comes to U.S. beef muscle profiling and applications. Akiki shared his expertise and creativity in U.S. beef butchering, carving and cooking methods. Apostolos Dimou, executive chef of the Four Seasons Hotel Beirut, also presented a variety of menu applications with carving stations that featured slow-cooked U.S. chuck, prime rib, hanging tender, braised short rib and rib eye shawarma skewer – an American-Lebanese fusion cuisine. Other dishes included tenderloin carpaccio, brisket and tri-tip burgers, top sirloin prepared on beef skewers and steak sandwiches.
“The tourism industry has been historically important to the local economy and remains, to this day, a major source of revenue – and further growth is expected,” said Lina Kanaan, USMEF representative in Lebanon. “Some areas have been traditionally known as restaurant locations – for example, the Beirut Central District, Hamra and the Keserwan District, with its renowned coastal resorts. In the past decade, however, new dining districts and new restaurant and pub clusters have emerged throughout Lebanon and have contributed to the growth of the catering and foodservice business.”
USMEF partnered with the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon and the USDA Office of Agricultural Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo in organizing the event. Bret Saalwaechter of the U.S. Agency for International Development spoke about the potential growth of the Lebanese market and the importance of bringing together distributors and buyers of U.S. beef. Dr. Elias Ibrahim, director of the Animal Resources Directorate at the Lebanese Ministry of Agriculture, answered questions about food safety.
As for the Lebanon market, Kanaan noted that beef and veal consumption in 2016 is forecast to hit 80,000 metric tons, about a 4 percent increase from 2015. Of that volume, 32,000 metric tons are imported — primarily from Brazil, India and Paraguay. The U.S. has a smaller share, but U.S. beef exports to Lebanon increased from $2.3 million in 2014 to $2.85 million last year, and has maintained that higher pace in 2016. This trend is attributed to an increase in air-freighted U.S. beef shipments of USDA Prime and Choice grades, Kanaan explained.