The famous Museum Aan de Stroom, located in the yacht harbor of Antwerp, Belgium, was recently visited by 130 chefs and other foodservice professionals from the catering sector for a U.S. beef tasting event. Funding was provided by the Beef Checkoff Program and the USDA Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) office in The Hague, Netherlands (which serves the Benelux region of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg). Chef Viki Geunes of Antwerp’s prestigious t’ Zilte restaurant was also a key supporter of the event.
A cutting demonstration was conducted by Dutch chef Erik Troost of the Steamship Rotterdam hotel, followed by a dinner of special dishes made from secondary beef cuts such as top sirloin cap, top blade, the teres major muscle and shoulder clod. Troost traveled to Texas as part of a USMEF trade team in 2006, which enhanced his professional experience of U.S. beef.
“Interest in U.S. beef was quite remarkable and intense, and it showed throughout the dinner conversation,” said John Brook, USMEF regional director for Europe, Russia and the Middle East. “Many expressed their appreciation for the quality and consistency of the product and a genuine desire to present their customers with steaks from secondary U.S. muscle cuts. This was the first time that so many people gathered in Belgium for a U.S. beef tasting event, and their positive response confirms the success of this initiative.”
“Typically, secondary cuts from European beef cannot be used for finer dishes, so the Belgian chefs were intrigued by the various cooking methods that take advantage of the unique marbling in U.S. beef,” said Mary Ellen Smith, agricultural attaché at the FAS office in The Hague, in a news release. “Events like these help introduce new U.S. products not only to the chefs that prepare them but to the thousands of European consumers that they serve.”
FAS touted the tasting event as an example of the agency’s market development programs having “a long history of helping farmers, ranchers and businesses of all sizes build and maintain commercial markets for U.S. food and agricultural products around the world. It also helps support President Obama’s National Export Initiative, which aims to double U.S. exports by the end of 2014.”
U.S. beef has shown resiliency this year in a tough economic environment in the EU, which is due in large part to the weakened euro and rapidly increasingly meat prices. Through August, the EU’s chilled beef imports from the United States were down 2 percent compared to last year at 10,039 metric tons (22.1 million pounds). But imports from all sources were down 8 percent to 65,150 metric tons (143.6 million pounds) and the volume from top supplier Argentina fell by 18 percent to 20,791 metric tons (45.8 million pounds).