Editors from Korea’s leading lifestyle magazines received a firsthand look at all aspects of the U.S. beef industry last week, from the wide-open spaces of Wyoming ranch country to New York’s famous steakhouses, as USMEF continues to work with key influencers in Korea to rebuild consumers’ and meat buyers’ confidence in the quality and safety of U.S. beef.
Formerly the No. 3 market for U.S. beef exports prior to the discovery of BSE in the United States in late 2003, Korea has rebounded to be the No. 5 market, last year buying 154,019 metric tons (339.6 million pounds) valued at $686 million.
Funded through support from the Beef Checkoff Program and the USDA Market Access Program (MAP), the objective of the tour was to educate influential journalists from three of the most respected culinary magazines in this nation of 50 million about the production, processing and merchandising practices that make the U.S. beef industry successful. The tour took on added importance because it was the first time a Korean media team made a beef-related visit to the United States since the market closed due to BSE in 2003. The print versions of these three publications reach a total of more than 175,000 Korean households, while tens of thousands of additional consumers of all ages access them through websites and mobile applications. So the information gathered on this tour can go a long way in overcoming lingering misperceptions about the safety and quality of U.S. beef.
The editors’ first stop was USMEF headquarters in Denver, where they learned about global trends in beef production, consumption and demand, and the marketing strategies that have helped U.S. beef reclaim market share in Korea since it reopened to U.S. beef in 2008. Next the group visited the Agricultural Research Development and Education Center (ARDEC) at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
“I was very surprised and impressed by the academic support available to the U.S. beef industry, and by the support producers receive from USMEF and other organizations,” said tour participant Ho Sun Lee, editor-in-chief of Lemon Tree magazine. “It was good for us to see not only the production practices but also to experience the entire culture that is responsible for producing U.S. beef.”
The following day, Wyoming cattleman Irv Petsch hosted the group at his family’s ranching and feeding operation near Meriden, Wyo. Petsch, who currently co-chairs the USMEF Beef and Allied Industries Committee, welcomed the opportunity.
“Having been involved with USMEF for many years, I understand the importance of this team’s visit and how it can pay huge dividends for our industry for many years to come,” Petsch said. “Showing key members of the media that we really care about our cattle and about the safety and quality of the beef we produce – the more we can get that message out, the more it will increase demand for our product.”
Petsch added that touring a multi-generation, family operation may have helped the editors achieve a better understanding of how U.S. cattle are raised.
“I feel they got a different view of the industry than what they might have been expecting. They were really amazed at our ability to walk the pasture among our cows and calves without disrupting them at all, and at how well the cattle in the feedlot are fed and cared for. They asked a lot of good questions about our feed ingredients and the alfalfa hay that we use. It was just a great opportunity to communicate our message and show them how committed we are to doing things the right way.”
The editors traveled next to New York, where they enjoyed dinner and a tour of the dry aging room and kitchen at Smith & Wollensky steakhouse in Manhattan. Hosting them for this event was USMEF member Suzanne Strassburger, president of Strassburger Meats and creator of the Suzy Sirloin line of natural meat products. Now a fifth-generation family business, Strassburger Meats provides prime steaks to Smith & Wollensky and other fine-dining establishments. Chef Armando Chavez also walked the group through his kitchen to better illustrate Smith & Wollensky’s preparation and presentation techniques.
“This has all been extremely positive for these editors – I feel they have had a great experience,” Strassburger said. “They asked excellent questions, and it’s clearly been a wonderful opportunity for them to see how beef is aged and prepared and to learn about different cuts and products. Whether they’re meeting with chefs, suppliers, butcher shop owners or ranchers, this really allows them to see the faces behind the industry and get to know them personally.”
The following day, the group enjoyed lunch with Strassburger at the original Peter Luger Steakhouse in Brooklyn, which is also a client of Strassburger Meats. This followed an extensive morning tour of the Chelsea Market and Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, where the editors viewed an outstanding selection of food items and got a small taste of the food shopping options available to Manhattan residents and visitors. One of the highlights of the tour was a behind-the-scenes look at Dickson’s Farmstand Meats with owner-operator Jacob Dickson. He discussed the company’s relationships with the local livestock operations that supply his shop with high-end meats, and provided details on the aging and cutting processes that take place on-site.
Hye Sook Chung, editor-in-chief of Essen magazine, came away impressed with the comprehensive information included in the tour.
“The visit to the ranching operation, along with the tour of the ARDEC center, provided me with new insights into the U.S. beef production system and showed me that it is really something to be envied,” she said. “I already knew U.S. beef was delicious, but I now I have a more objective understanding of what is involved in creating a quality product.”
“Before I came here I tended to think of this as one huge industry, but now I can see the small family operations that play such a key role in producing U.S. beef,” added Eun Suk Lee, editor-in-chief of Cookand magazine. “I now see that the farmers and ranchers here in the U.S. take great pride in raising their animals and crops, and I believe their mindset is the same as other small farmers all over the world.”