A team of beef producers from Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado joined USMEF in Japan and South Korea this week to get a better understanding of the two largest value destinations for U.S. beef exports and identify potential areas for further growth.
The delegation included representatives of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB), the Texas Beef Council (TBC) and the Colorado Beef Council (CBC). Led by USMEF staff, the producers examined market conditions and met with key international customers in both countries. They also participated in promotional activities organized by USMEF, visited cold storage facilities packed with U.S. beef products and toured retail outlets to see how U.S. beef is merchandised and sold to consumers.
“It’s been an eye-opening experience because we had heard a lot about these markets and you can get a vision of it, but until you actually see it in person you can’t really imagine how well our checkoff dollars are being used – it’s a great investment,” said Brett Morris, chairman of the Cattleman’s Beef Board and a cattle producer from Oklahoma. “Consumers are enthusiastic about U.S. beef in both Japan and Korea. They love beef and they are willing to pay for it. And there is a lot of respect for USMEF staff and what they have been doing here.”
The Japan visit included a briefing at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, a U.S. beef trade seminar for Japanese retailers and importers, and a tour of Nippon Ham’s cold storage facility. Team members met with major buyers of U.S. beef and were introduced to Japanese consumers during a USMEF “Urban BBQ” consumer event, where they shared information about U.S. beef production and learned about consumer demand. To explore trends in Japanese dining, the team visited yakiniku and shabu-shabu restaurants.
“USMEF has been promoting the use of thicker cuts of U.S. beef and we noticed that in a plot of places,” said Jackie Means, a Texas beef producer and TBC member. “The exciting thing for us is that all of the restaurants we went to were serving U.S. beef. Another exciting thing is that, in talking to retail and restaurant managers in both countries, there has been a thickening of traditional dishes. They are using U.S. beef and choosing thicker cuts. This is a winning move because it means they are ultimately using more U.S. product.”
In Korea, the team attended a briefing at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, then toured the distribution center of Lotte Mart, a major Korean retailer. They also toured a Costco store, where they saw firsthand results of that company’s recent decision to begin selling chilled U.S. beef exclusively.
“Both Japan and Korea have to import roughly 60 percent of their food, so they are very important markets and there is competition, but we saw how USMEF works in both countries to promote our beef,” said Todd Inglee, a Colorado beef producer and chairman of the CBC. “One of the big challenges in Asia is displacing Australian beef, and we were able to witness success at the Costco in Korea. You see how consumers react to U.S. beef and how enthused they are at the Costco meat department. It’s dominated by U.S. beef and shoppers were just continuously picking up our beef products.”
Taking part in a U.S. beef trade seminar held in Japan allowed the producers to meet Japanese retail buyers, distributors, trade media and U.S. packers. The focus of the seminar was on providing customers of U.S. beef new ideas to merchandise chuck and round cuts at retail and expand shelf space, as well as market underutilized cuts. The seminar included a cutting demonstration that featured several U.S. beef cuts.
“From a beef selling point of view, it is very favorable to use many and various kind of cuts to utilize the whole beef carcass,” explained Morris, who noted that shoulder clod, top round and flat round were highlighted.
A tasting followed, featuring U.S. beef round flat, shoulder clod, deep fried beef cutlet top round and beef stir-fry with cabbage.
The team participated in a Texas-themed cooking class and contest on Friday and were scheduled to return to the U.S. on Saturday.