Continuing its work to promote the quality and availability of U.S. beef and pork to China’s retail, foodservice and Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional (HRI) sector, USMEF had a huge presence at this year’s SIAL China in Shanghai, one of the largest food shows in the world. With funding from the Beef Checkoff Program and the National Pork Board, USMEF conducted cutting and cooking demonstrations, tasting sessions, a chef competition and face-to-face meetings between member companies and Chinese importers and distributors. USMEF is a subcontractor of the Beef Checkoff and a contractor to the Pork Checkoff.
As a bonus promotional opportunity, the fifth annual U.S. Meat Traders Club Reception was held in conjunction with the show. A short video from that event can be seen here.
“SIAL China sets the benchmark for overseas companies stepping into Asia and China to gain valuable market insights and information on trends and innovations in the food industry,” said Ming Liang, USMEF marketing director in China. “The show attracts the region’s major food professionals under one roof, giving our members great opportunities to network and providing us the chance to share information about U.S. beef and pork with thousands of visitors who came by the USMEF booth each day.”
The 2019 edition of SIAL China featured 4,300 exhibitors from around the world and attracted more than 112,000 attendees.
On the first day of the show, U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad, USDA Agricultural Counselor Bobby Richey and Ryan Scott, director of the Agricultural Trade Office (ATO) in Shanghai, visited the USMEF booth to talk with staff and greet SIAL attendees. They also had a special meeting with representatives from eight USMEF members participating in the show.
“Ambassador Branstad was happy to see members’ passion about the U.S. red meat industry and U.S. agriculture as a whole, given the challenging trade circumstances,” said Liang. “To show his support, he also took part in the tasting demonstrations for high-quality U.S. beef and pork cooked at the USMEF booth.”
After a cutting demonstration that highlighted several U.S. beef and pork cuts well-suited for the Chinese market, the cuts were prepared, cooked and then offered at a special tasting area to give potential customers a firsthand experience. Processed meats were part of the mix for the tasting sessions, giving retailers a look at a variety of products made with U.S. raw materials.
On the second day, USMEF arranged for a meat buying team from Gansu Province to meet with USMEF members. The team was divided into small groups for private business meetings.
USMEF also organized a cooking contest on the second day featuring 24 well-known Chinese and international chefs.
Trade, ASF Dominate Discussions
As expected, ongoing trade discussions between the U.S. and China and the potential impact of African swine fever (ASF) were the most talked-about topics at this year’s SIAL China.
“Many traders stopped by the USMEF booth to discuss the current trade conflict and to ask what kind of effect ASF could have on the buying patterns of Chinese importers,” said Liang.
Shortly after the show, Joel Haggard, USMEF senior vice president for the Asia Pacific, addressed the expected pork shortage in China at a press conference during USMEF’s Spring Conference in Kansas City, Mo.
While the tone of SIAL China was positive, Haggard said uncertainty was in the air.
“There were a lot of questions about China’s hog supply – how big is the shortfall? What will be the consumption response? How high will prices go? How big will imports be? How many other countries in the region will be afflicted with ASF?” said Haggard, who noted that the China Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs published year-over-year numbers for April that showed China’s sow inventory down 22 percent and total hog inventories down just under 21 percent.
“Those are already very large numbers if one keeps in mind the very rough numbers of 50 million tons of production and consumption, with a couple million additional tons being filled by imports,” he added. “Everyone is asking, ‘OK, when is this going to manifest itself in terms of big imports and much higher prices within China?’ If you look at the first quarter, imports of beef, poultry and sheep shot up, but pork went down. So, there is frustration about when this supposed hole will develop and then start to affect all protein supplies.”
U.S. beef received rave reviews during the SIAL show and China’s appetite for imported beef continues to grow. The country’s overall beef imports are up 54 percent through April this year. U.S. beef, which regained access to the Chinese market in 2017, continues to gain footing, but about two-thirds of the beef imported into China is from South America and Australia is its main supplier of grain-fed beef.
U.S. Meat Traders Club Reception
USMEF hosted its fifth annual meeting of the U.S. Meat Traders Club to provide members with an update on promotional activities for U.S. beef and pork and to connect traders with other industry representatives.
The U.S. Meat Traders Club is an informal association of executives from U.S. red meat exporting and importing, distribution, retailing and foodservice companies. With USMEF as the principal organizer, the group gathers annually to network and exchange views on the U.S. beef and pork trade.
The U.S. Red Meat Processing Technology Forum, an educational seminar that attracted 100 industry executives from around China, including a contingent of port inspectors from Tianjin and Shanghai, preceded the reception. Presenting at the forum were University of Wisconsin Department of Animal Science Meat Science professors Andy Milkowski and Jeff Sindelar.
Nearly 900 people attended the reception, with Branstad offering remarks on the U.S.-China bilateral relationship and the commitment by the U.S. beef and pork sectors to serve the Chinese market.
The event, funded by Iowa Corn, the Iowa Soybean Association, the Colorado Beef Council, the Beef Checkoff Program and the National Pork Board, included an update by USMEF Economist Erin Borror highlighting the record production of U.S. pork and beef and the vast potential for growth in U.S. exports in spite of stiff competition.
A video of Borror’s presentation can be viewed here.
“Unfortunately, trade in the region, especially U.S. red meat exports to China, has many obstacles facing it,” Borror told the audience. Her outlook pointed to the ability of the U.S. to ship much more product to China, especially given its looming pork shortage due to ASF.
Borror’s outlook also emphasized the growing production of Prime and Choice graded beef, as well as continuous improvements in the sustainability of the U.S. beef and pork industries.
The reception’s dinner menu featured dry-aged U.S. beef ribeye and braised U.S. pork shank.
This year’s event also included chef demonstrations and samplings by guest chefs Liu Nan NaN and Du Wen Cai. The two prepared an East-West thematic tasting pavilion for arriving guests featuring American barbecue favorites such as brisket, pulled pork and Chinese dishes such as Cha Shao.
“The Meat Traders Club annual networking event has become the largest U.S. red meat industry activity in China,” said Haggard. “Overall, the Traders Club has the objective of positioning the U.S. red meat industry as a committed supplier of high-quality pork and beef to China.”