“As the cattle market’s been softening this summer and we have drought and other challenges to deal with, producers have gained an even greater appreciation for the importance of exports,” said Chairman Kevin Kester, a fifth-generation rancher from Parkfield, Calif. “International markets remain a real bright spot for our industry, and this meeting provided specific details on what we need to do to remain successful.”
Kester opened the discussion with an update on Taiwan, where an impasse over beta agonist residues has slowed exports to this once red-hot market. Earlier last week, legislators in Taiwan approved a proposal to allow maximum residue levels (MRLs) for beta agonists in imported beef – a move that should improve the business climate for U.S. beef once regulators complete implementation. He also discussed efforts to raise the cattle-age limit for beef imported from the United States and Canada to Japan from 20 months to 30 months, which seem to be progressing well although without a firm timeline for completion. The benefits of new free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama were also discussed, as well as ongoing negotiations between countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.
Leann Saunders, president of IMI Global and USMEF secretary-treasurer, shared observations from her recent visits to Japan and Korea. She emphasized the growing expectation of traceability for beef, even in markets where it is not required. Saunders also discussed the growing importance of social media in reaching customers in foreign markets.
“You already know that the social media has tremendous influence on consumer opinions here in the domestic market,” Saunders told committee members. “But in key Asian markets such as Japan and Korea, the impact is even greater. USMEF is creating strong relationships with influential bloggers and finding other ways to use social media to our advantage. The results have been extremely positive and very beneficial for our beef industry.”
USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng led a discussion on global meat consumption growth, explaining the importance of capitalizing on these opportunities and maintaining the United States’ status as one of the world’s leading beef exporters. He noted that beef export value per head of fed slaughter currently exceeds $200 and this figure increases to about $350 when hides, tallow and other products are included – illustrating the important contribution exports make toward producer profitability.
Dan Halstrom, USMEF senior vice president for marketing and communications, and Greg Hanes, assistant vice president for international programs, provided committee members with an explanation of USMEF’s international market development priorities for the upcoming year. Issues receiving particular focus included the potential opportunities in Japan if market access is expanded, the growing demand for muscle cuts in the Middle East and the recent surge in U.S. beef exports to Central and South America.
Keynote speaker Tony Clayton, CEO of Clayton Agri-Marketing, gave a detailed presentation regarding exports of live cattle and genetics to destinations such as Turkey, Russia, Kazakhstan, Egypt and Vietnam. He noted that overseas transport of animals faces many obstacles and extraordinary costs, but explained that many countries are still determined to maintain some level of livestock production due to food security concerns.
The meeting concluded with a tasting session featuring international beef dishes prepared from commonly exported cuts such as beef tongue, tripe, chuck roll and sirloin cap. The samples provided producers with a firsthand look at how international customers prepare and serve U.S. beef cuts that command much less value in the domestic market. .