Audio: Following Record Year, Outlook Remains Strong for U.S. Beef in South Korea

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U.S. beef exports to South Korea are coming off another record performance in 2019, with export value reaching $1.84 billion – an increase of 5% from 2018.

Jihae Yang, U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) Korea director, says the outlook is very positive for continued growth in 2020. She explains that Korea’s domestic beef production cannot keep pace with growing demand, and well-marbled, high-quality beef from the United States is very appealing to Korean consumers. Australia’s beef production is being impacted by drought-induced herd liquidation, which has an increasing number of Korean retailers and foodservice operators relying on U.S. beef. Lower tariff rates under the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) also helps make U.S. beef more affordable for consumers. Since KORUS was implemented in 2012, the tariff rate for U.S. beef has fallen from 40% to 16%, and will go to zero by 2026. U.S. beef enjoys a tariff rate advantage over competitors in Korea, because KORUS was Korea’s first free trade agreement with a major beef supplier.

Yang notes that U.S. beef has an ever-expanding presence in Korea’s foodservice sector. It is a perfect fit for popular home meal replacement kits, and a wide range of U.S. beef cuts are used to satisfy Koreans’ growing appetite for steaks and craft burgers.


Joe Schuele: U.S. beef exports to South Korea set another new record in 2019 reaching $1.84 billion. Jihae Yang, U.S. Meat Export Federation Director in Korea, discusses some of the factors driving this growth in this USMEF report.

Jihae Yang: Korea is a beef loving country and domestic supplies are pretty consistent and U.S. beef is taking more shares to meet the growing demand and … high marbled and high-quality beef including the branded beef is appealing to Korean people. The U.S. beef tariff in 2020 is now 16% coming down from 40% that is a significant benefit for the importers of U.S. beef as well as the Korean consumers. So, we are still enjoying the tariff difference from other competitors so that made our customers to be more reliant for the U.S. beef. And then the Australian beef supply is quite inconsistent recently and most of the retailers set high goals for selling more U.S. beef, especially the chilled beef this year so I think the Korean retailers of U.S. beef continue to grow this year.

Joe Schuele: In addition to retail success, U.S. beef is increasingly popular in Korea’s food service sector. For everything from steaks and craft burgers to home meal replacement kits.

Jihae Yang: U.S. beef is perfect fit for the home meal replacement product, including the meal kit box, which is very fresh and premium for Korean consumers, so U.S. beef is now widely used in various type of home meal replacement including Chinese style, Korean style and American style cuisine. Another growing sector is the craft burger and the steak in the foodservice sector, growing demand for a wide range of cuts.

Joe Schuele: For more information, please visit For the U.S. Meat Export Federation, I’m Joe Schuele.

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The U.S. Meat Export Federation ( is the trade association responsible for developing international markets for the U.S. red meat industry. It is funded by USDA; the beef, pork, lamb, corn and soybean checkoff programs, as well as its members representing nine industry sectors: beef/veal producing & feeding, pork producing & feeding, lamb producing & feeding, packing & processing, purveying & trading, oilseeds producing, feedgrains producing, farm organizations and supply & service organizations. USMEF complies with all equal opportunity, non-discrimination and affirmative action measures applicable to it by contract, government rule or regulation or as otherwise provided by law. USMEF is an equal opportunity employer and provider.