Beef producers from across the nation gathered in Denver this week for the Cattle Industry Summer Conference. At Friday’s meeting of the beef industry’s Joint Global Growth Committee, Leann Saunders, USMEF vice-chair and president of Where Food Comes From, provided the committee with an overview of USMEF activities and priorities in the areas of marketing, trade access, trade servicing and issues management.
USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng also addressed the committee, emphasizing the critical returns exports deliver for cattle producers. In June, export value per head of fed slaughter topped $260 – an increase of 28 percent from a year ago. For the first half of 2013, beef export value ($2.83 billion) was 6 percent ahead of last year’s record pace.
“Beef exports are the locomotive for growth and profitability in the U.S. cattle industry,” Seng said. “And opportunities are expanding even as we speak. Improved market access in Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan has provided outstanding momentum for exports this year. Tariffs are coming down in Latin America, which allows a growing middle class to enjoy U.S. beef. Historic trade agreement negotiations are underway with other key trading partners – so these are very exciting times in the export business.”
To illustrate these points, Seng gave the committee an overview of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). He also detailed the rate of beef consumption growth internationally compared to the United States.
Dan Halstrom, USMEF senior vice president for marketing and communications, and Greg Hanes, assistant vice president for international marketing and programs, outlined USMEF’s checkoff-funded marketing priorities for the upcoming fiscal year. In particular, they focused on planned activities in Japan, the Middle East, Central-South America and Hong Kong.
To provide producers with a clearer picture of the competitive marketplace, a “blind” tasting exercise was held in which committee members had an opportunity to compare samples from other beef-producing countries with U.S. Choice beef. Featured samples included grass-fed beef from Uruguay and New Zealand, along with U.S.-raised wagyu products that closely approximate the high-end beef served in Japan.
Global Growth Committee Vice-chair Austin Brown III, a cattle producer from Beeville, Texas, found the tasting exercise educational – and somewhat surprising.
“I was able to correctly identify the U.S. Choice beef and ranked it the highest, but there was not as much variation in the samples as I was expecting,” Brown said. “While these samples were among the higher-end cuts that these countries have to offer, the taste test showed me that our competitors – even some of those on the grass-fed side – are putting out some fine products.”