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USMEF-Korea Campaign Puts Pork Butt on Top Restaurant Menus

When South Koreans dine at a gourmet restaurant, they don’t expect to find many pork dishes on the menu. Now, thanks to a USMEF-Korea promotion with a leading Korean food magazine, U.S. pork butt is getting the white tablecloth treatment at several “A-list” restaurants in Seoul.

"Cookand" spotlighted U.S. pork menus in upscale Korean restaurants

USMEF teamed with “Cookand” magazine on a special month-long promotion in June with five high-end owner-chef restaurants to introduce them to U.S. pork butt and challenge them to develop special recipes that would appeal to Seoul’s selective diners. The promotion was funded with support from the USDA Market Access Program and the Pork Checkoff.   The five trendy restaurants in popular Seoul neighborhoods agreed to participate in the pork butt campaign to see if they could interest diners in a completely new menu option and, at the same time, sway consumers from their perception of pork as a “cheap” protein. “Cookand” kicked off the promotion with a lengthy feature story in its May issue that spotlighted the restaurants and the pork menus. The participating restaurants and pork menu items were: Ciro Olivio (Italian) and a pork cutlet with saffron risotto; Eatery (steakhouse) and a special 8-ounce pork steak; Jungshikdang (New Korean cuisine) and pork butt with kimchi sauerkraut; Serial Gourmet (North American-style) and milk-braised pulled pork butt sandwich; and Shy Bana (Southern family-style) and New Orleans-style pork steak. The response to the promotion was extremely encouraging. Based on consumer reaction, three of the restaurants, Ciro Olivo, Eatery and Shy Bana, have elected to keep the U.S. pork dishes on their menu. “The significance of this promotion is huge for the image of pork – particularly U.S. pork,” said Yang. “While the volume sold isn’t enormous right now, these type of restaurants are the starting point for menu trends in Korea.” USMEF surveyed diners who ordered the U.S. pork butt entrees during the promotion. Most (75 percent) of the respondents said they usually order beef as the main dish at Western-style restaurants, while 11 percent order lamb, 11 percent order chicken and 3 percent order fish. “There are opportunities for U.S. pork butt in high-end Korean restaurants,” said Yang. “This very flavorful and versatile cut already is used in Korean-style pork barbecue restaurants, steamed pork restaurants, butcher shops, hypermarkets, catering companies and by processors, but the challenge this promotion addressed is to raise the image of U.S. pork – particularly pork butt – in gourmet restaurants.” South Korea is the fastest-growing market for U.S. pork exports. Through the first four months of 2011, U.S. pork exports there are up 187 percent to 97,357 metric tons (214.6 million pounds) valued at $239.8 million, a 245 percent increase over 2010. The Korean initiative is one of several that USMEF is pursuing to enhance the international market for U.S. boneless pork butt. In Japan, USMEF has launched an Internet-based campaign to raise awareness of the pork butt and encourage consumers to try it in several recipes. The recipes highlighted in the campaign are U.S. Pork “Tatsuta-age” (crispy-fried) Salad, Steamed U.S. Pork and Sweet Potato, Fried Sour U.S. Pork and Roast U.S. Pork. “U.S. pork has been the top imported pork in Japan for six consecutive years, but there are many new cuts and recipes for consumers to experience and enjoy,” said Dan Halstrom, USMEF senior vice president of marketing and communication. “We are aggressively pursuing opportunities for pork butt and other under-valued cuts in a number of international markets.” U.S. pork exports to Japan are up 17 percent in both volume and value in 2011 to 163,775 metric tons (361 million pounds) valued at $616.5 million.