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U.S. Pork and Beef’s Versatility Highlighted on Korea’s Fast-growing Jeju Island

To capitalize on rapid restaurant and hotel expansion in a fast-growing province of South Korea, USMEF conducted a U.S. Red Meat Seminar on Jeju Island, a tourist destination located off the coast of the Korean Peninsula. Funding for the seminar, which attracted more than 70 foodservice managers, retailers and importers, was provided by the USDA Market Access Program (MAP), the Pork Checkoff and the Beef Checkoff Program.

Restaurant and hotel staff examine U.S. pork and beef cuts at the U.S. Red Meat Seminar on Jeju Island

Restaurant and hotel staff examine U.S. pork and beef cuts at the U.S. Red Meat Seminar on Jeju Island

According to Jihae Yang, USMEF director in Korea, the population on Jeju Island is growing at more than three times the national average “due to a booming migration of people fed up with the stresses of city life.” Tourism is also driving the foodservice and hospitality industries, with a recent report estimating that more than 10 million people visit Jeju Island every year.

“Improved ferry and air transportation now makes Jeju Island more accessible – especially to countries other than Korea, which contributes to the growth in tourism,” said Yang. “The economy of Jeju Island is booming, and it recorded its highest growth in consumption, service industry productivity and employment. The private spending rate has increased at more than double the national average, and the retail sales rate is more than triple the national average.”

USMEF previously held a U.S. Meat Culinary Camp on Jeju Island in 2010, inviting foodservice managers from across Korea. But the recent red meat seminar was the first event held specifically for those doing business on Jeju Island.

Food consumption in the province – once heavily focused on local seafood and domestic black pork – is experiencing cultural changes, noted Alex Choi, USMEF assistant marketing manager in Korea. Burgers, sandwiches, steaks and Italian dishes are all catching on, he said. Brunch is also gaining popularity, creating new menu opportunities for pork and beef dishes.

The seminar offered restaurant and foodservice managers information about the quality and versatility of U.S. pork and beef – as well as menu and merchandising ideas

The seminar offered restaurant and foodservice managers information about the quality and versatility of U.S. pork and beef – as well as menu and merchandising ideas

With these new trends in mind, Choi gave seminar attendees an update on U.S. pork and beef production – focusing on the versatility and competitiveness of U.S. red meat. He also discussed pricing trends, the USDA grading systems and branded U.S. products available in the Korean market.

With plenty of merchandising ideas and menu suggestions, Junil Park, USMEF senior marketing manager, and Elly Sung, USMEF marketing manager, introduced and described a number of U.S. beef cuts – short ribs, chuck short ribs, brisket, chuck roll, short plate, petite tender, hanging tender, center of heel, bone-in ribeye roll, short loin and back ribs – as well as U.S. pork Boston butt, back ribs and spare ribs.

USMEF prepared Korean, Chinese, western and Japanese style dishes for tasting, including beef sushi, bulgogi, sweet and sour beef, stir-fried noodles with beef, beef roast, stir-fried chili with pork, barbecue pork rib and sandwiches made with U.S. processed pork. USMEF also presented each attendee with a “sample pack” of U.S. beef strip loin, center of heel, clod and chuck eye roll and U.S. pork back ribs and bacon.

“The idea was for them to take the pack back to their hotels or restaurants, test them with their own style, and discuss using these products with their chefs,” explained Choi. “Jeju Island customers are less exposed to U.S. beef, and distribution channels are not firmly established there. So the sample package was an opportunity to test the products themselves, and we feel it will ultimately increase the level of interest in U.S. red meat.”

Through November, U.S. beef/beef variety meat exports to Korea were up 38 percent year-over-year in volume to 158,947 metric tons. Export value was up 25 percent to $929.3 million – already a full-year record.

Pork/pork variety meat exports to Korea were down from the large totals of 2015 in both volume (120,070 metric tons, down 22 percent) and value ($322.5 million, down 26 percent), but since August exports have trended above year-ago levels.

U.S. pork and beef in dishes sampled by seminar attendees

U.S. pork and beef in dishes sampled by seminar attendees