Steady increases of U.S. beef and pork sales at Costco stores in South Korea over the past six months led USMEF to host a special U.S. beef and pork seminar for Costco employees. Funded by the Beef Checkoff Program and the Pork Checkoff, the educational seminar was designed to further boost the success of U.S. beef and pork in the Korean market.
About 60 staff members from 13 Costco stores – including meat and deli buyers from the Costco-Korea headquarters – participated in the seminar. They heard an update on the U.S. red meat industry, including forecasts on production and prices, details on food safety and information on the USDA beef grading system.
After the seminar, a dinner featuring U.S. beef steak cuts sold at Costco stores in Korea was prepared and sampled by attendees.
“Costco emphasized to these key employees that this was a great opportunity to get a better understanding of the U.S. red meat industry and to learn about the high safety levels in U.S. meat production,” said Jihae Yang, USMEF director in Korea.
Namkoong Yoon, a meat buyer with Costco in Korea, noted that the seminar was very practical for Costco staff members who work with U.S. red meat products.
“He told me that the seminar reinforced the safety and quality of U.S. beef and pork sold at Costco, and it helped make the chain’s staff confident in upcoming sales promotions,” said Yang.
Earlier this year, Costco-Korea converted its source of chilled beef from Australia to U.S., a decision driven in part by tight supplies of Aussie beef compared to ample U.S. beef supplies, supplemented by favorable prices for U.S. products.
“But more importantly, consumer confidence in the safety of U.S. beef reached the tipping point, allowing Costco to move forward on a 100 percent conversion from Aussie beef to U.S. beef,” explained Yang.
During the conversion period, USMEF worked closely with Hanjung, the main supplier of U.S. beef to Costco, in sampling and sales promotions.
According to Yang, due to a gradual store-by-store conversion, the U.S. beef share at Costco stores in Korea as of July 2017 was 62 percent, a significant increase from 6.7 percent in 2014, 7.5 percent in 2015 and 17 percent in 2016.
Costco’s chilled beef sales in 2017 are expected to reach 9,000 metric tons.
“With Costco’s shift to U.S. beef, Korea’s U.S. chilled beef imports have significantly increased,” said Yang. “May and June imports of U.S. chilled beef were dominated by the demand created by Costco.”