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.

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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.