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South American Chefs Get Hands-on View of U.S. Beef Production

USMEF recently hosted a team of chefs and culinary educators from Peru and Colombia for a farm-to-plate tour of the U.S. beef industry. The primary objective was to better familiarize team members with the positive attributes of U.S. beef so they can utilize this expertise in future presentations and demonstrations in South America. The group was accompanied by USMEF Technical Services Manager Cheyenne McEndaffer and Colombia-based representative Pablo Londono, and its activities were funded by the Beef Checkoff Program.

Bridget Wasser, executive director of meat science and technology for the Beef Innovations Group, demonstrates steak cutting techniques for chefs from Colombia and Peru at the Beef Culinary Center

Bridget Wasser, executive director of meat science and technology for the Beef Innovations Group, demonstrates steak cutting techniques for chefs from Colombia and Peru at the Beef Culinary Center

The week began at USMEF headquarters in Denver, where members of the Technical Services team gave an overview of the U.S. industry and explained USMEF’s role in international market development and assisting exporters in serving these markets.

The team’s next stop was at the Beef Culinary Center in Centennial, Colorado, a beef checkoff-funded facility focused on innovation and new product development. The Beef Innovations Group from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program, provided the team with a beef cutting, preparation and cooking demonstration that showcased the quality and versatility of U.S. beef.

The following day focused on beef production in northeastern Colorado, as the team visited the Christensen Brothers cow/calf operation near Weldona, Magnum Feedyards near Wiggins and the Cargill beef slaughter plant in Fort Morgan.

Throughout the U.S. tour, the chef team also had the opportunity to sample beef dishes at several restaurants and gain a stronger appreciation for the value and variety these products deliver for the foodservice sector.

“This was very much a ‘train-the-trainers’ exercise in which USMEF had the opportunity to host chefs who will take what they learned back to South America for use in culinary demonstrations and seminars that showcase U.S. beef,” McEndaffer explained. “There are strong growth opportunities in the South American foodservice and retail sectors, but these markets are intensely competitive and we need key influencers who can help us expand the presence of U.S. beef. The chefs who participated on this team will be perfect for this role.”

Jessica Julca, USMEF representative in South America, noted that the chefs are uniquely qualified to convey the positive attributes of U.S. beef and will serve as a valuable resource as the industry seeks to expand its footprint in South America.

“For this endeavor, USMEF specifically identified chefs with varying backgrounds,” Julca explained. “Cecilia Alfaro not only teaches at one of the most important gastronomic schools in Peru, she is also an animal science expert who understands how genetics and production practices impact meat quality. Miguel Hurtado is the executive chef for an importer/distributor, which allows him to explain the importance of reliable logistics and pricing for international clients, and to emphasize the great quality and consumer satisfaction U.S. products deliver. Nicolas Diaz has worked as an executive chef and administrator in a burger chain and a high-end steakhouse in Peru, so he has excellent knowledge of different cuts and how to maximize yields for a successful operation.”

Chef Nicolas Diaz views the feed mixture at Magnum Feedyard near Wiggins, Colorado

Chef Nicolas Diaz views the feed mixture at Magnum Feedyard near Wiggins, Colorado

Chile and Peru are the primary South American destinations for U.S. beef, with exports last year valued at more than $74 million. Uruguay and Ecuador are also open to U.S. beef products and exports to Ecuador could expand substantially this year as temporary import duties, first imposed in 2015, are phased out. Brazil also recently opened to U.S. beef and USMEF sees potential in the Brazilian market for certain muscle cuts such as picanha and for beef livers.