Building on the success of bone-in ham exports to Mexico, USMEF is piloting a new marketing program to differentiate high-quality U.S. ham and other pork cuts to further expand consumer demand.
Underutilized domestically, nearly half of U.S. pork ham/leg production is exported and the top destination is Mexico. Exports of bone-in hams to Mexico have more than doubled in the past 10 years and are forecast to reach 542,000 metric tons in 2021, a year-over-year increase of 18%. Through July 2021, exports of U.S. bone-in hams to Mexico alone equated to $7.77 per head slaughtered. See infographic.
“U.S. bone-in hams are in high demand as raw material for prepared hams and other processed products in Mexico,” says Gerardo Rodriguez, USMEF director of marketing in Mexico, Central America and Dominican Republic. “But processors in Mexico typically inject water into pork and in the case of hams, they will inject as much as 50%-60% of its weight. This dilutes the flavor and quality of ham products for consumers and diminishes our ability to position U.S. pork as high-quality.”
Rodriguez explains there is no government regulation in Mexico over how much water can be injected into hams. With funding support from the National Pork Board, Illinois Soybean Association and USDA’s ATP and MAP programs, USMEF is partnering with Costco on a pilot program to address this challenge. “We have implemented the campaign in 27 Costco outlets across Mexico,” says Rodriguez. “American Pure Pork means no water is injected into the pork. We are confident that consumers will appreciate the superior flavor of the U.S. product and will come back for more.”
USMEF is providing promotional support for each of the 27 Costco outlets, which includes production of cooking videos with influencers and implementation of social media campaigns. The videos are developed to present new ideas for cooking with U.S. ham and other cuts that emphasize superior flavor in native dishes.
“Differentiating U.S. pork in the meat case fits with our overall strategy to develop the market for U.S. pork,” says USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “The Pure Pork campaign also complements the pork industry’s “Real Pork” master strategy.”
Rodriguez says retail chains in Mexico regularly monitor Costco promotions for successful ideas. The American Pure Pork program provides an example to other retail chains that U.S. product can be successfully differentiated at the meat case. The program will be expanded to retail chains that are willing to support and promote the American Pure Pork concept.