Audio: Gulfood Show a Key Event for U.S. Beef Exporters

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U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) President and CEO Dan Halstrom has just returned from Gulfood, the Middle East region’s largest food trade show held annually in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). Halstrom notes that Gulfood is an important event for U.S. exporters, because the region has a robust foodservice sector in which a growing number of establishments offer U.S. beef, both in high-end and fast-casual settings. In addition to the UAE, key markets for U.S. beef muscle cuts include Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. Egypt is the region’s main destination for U.S. beef variety meat and consistently ranks the largest export market for U.S. beef livers.

At its 2011 peak, U.S. beef exports to Saudi Arabia reached nearly $32 million, but the market closed in 2012 following a BSE case in California. While Saudi Arabia reopened to U.S. beef in 2016, BSE-related product restrictions and documentation requirements have made it difficult for the U.S. industry to fully regain lost market share. Last year exports to Saudi Arabia were $14.3 million – up 30% from 2018 but still well short of the level achieved prior to the market closure. Halstrom says foodservice demand is surging in Saudi Arabia and gaining better market access for U.S. beef is a priority for U.S. trade officials and the U.S. industry.


Joe Schuele: U.S. Meat Export Federation President and CEO Dan Halstrom has just returned from Gulfood in Dubai. The largest food trade show in the Middle East region and an important one for exporters of U.S. beef. He has more details in this USMEF report.

Dan Halstrom: Gulfood in Dubai has really turned into a global food show. It was a 25th anniversary with buyers from all over the world, but specifically to the middle eastern region. It’s really a combination of high-end cuts for food service primarily, there is a fast-casual segment emerging there has been for some time now, so you have demand for ground beef made from sub-primals like chucks and briskets. Primary markets of course would be United Arab Emirates with Dubai and Abu Dhabi being the two primary destinations. Other markets within that immediate region that are big for U.S. exporters would be Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain as well.

Joe Schuele: At its peak, Saudi Arabia was a $30 million market for U.S. beef, but now technical restrictions are keeping exports from reaching their full potential.

Dan Halstrom: Saudi Arabia would probably be the largest target market in the region, but we have some access issues there we are trying to work through. We’re working hard with the government. [USDA} Under Secretary of Trade [Ted] McKinney was at Gulfood we had meetings with our members with him and pointed out that we really needed to have a focus on improving the access in Saudi for U.S. beef and hopefully we can see some gains there because there’s a lot of interest from our exporters to increase their business into Saudi Arabia. The reports we are getting from our team over there out of Saudi Arabia is that the food service business is absolutely booming, particularly with some of the modernizations they’ve made allowing more access for women to drive, to go out in public, something we take for granted almost everywhere else in the world but this is new for Saudi Arabia so the economics in Saudi Arabia are booming which is all the more reason we need increase access for U.S. beef there.

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.