Sharing examples of U.S. pork’s versatility with South American foodservice professionals, USMEF prepared and served Japanese-style tonkatsu, poke bowls and “pop pork” – breaded cubes of pork served like popcorn – to visitors at the Atlantic Food Show in Cartagena, Colombia. Funded by the United Soybean Board (USB), the two-day activity included giving tasting samples to hundreds of show visitors and business discussions with clients of Atlantic Food Service.
Atlantic, a major importer based in Colombia, organizes the annual event to introduce its customers to new products and provide them an opportunity to meet with exporters.
“Colombia has been an excellent market for U.S. pork and the growing interest has a lot to do with consumers finding new ways to cook and serve pork,” said Jessica Julca, USMEF representative in South America. “The importers, distributors, retailers and foodservice operators recognize the opportunities. At USMEF’s 2019 Latin American Product Showcase, many Colombian importers told us that they want new ideas for utilizing U.S. pork to capitalize on this growing demand.”
Much of the U.S. pork exported to Colombia has traditionally been used for further processing. However, the country’s economic growth and expanding tourism industry have increased demand for retail cuts and new menu items at restaurants. Exports to Colombia continued to show strong growth in 2019, with January-November volume climbing 9% above the previous year’s pace at 92,280 metric tons, and value up 7% to $203.6 million.
At the Atlantic show, Don Mason, USMEF representative in Colombia, and chef Nicolas Diaz answered questions about U.S. pork and exchanged information about the products available in the market.
“Our conversations centered around the versatility of pork and the many options for menu ideas and meal presentations,” said Mason. “There were also many technical discussions with those in the South American food industry on the importance of thawing and storing meat correctly and revised recommendations for cooking temperatures. USMEF is making the quality control efforts of the U.S. pork industry a point of emphasis – from production through harvest, fabrication, freezing and storage.”
Diaz and Rafael Suarez, executive chef at the Conrad Hotel in Cartagena, prepared five unique U.S. pork dishes that were given out as tasting samples: Japanese-style tonkatsu (pork loin medallions breaded with tempura and panko), poke bowls (pork loin marinated in coffee to give it a Colombian touch), back ribs marinated for 12 hours and cooked in a bourbon barbecue sauce, pop pork (seasoned and breaded cubes of loin) and St. Louis ribs marinated for 12 hours and cooked in barbecue sauce.
“The response to the tastings was very positive – our booth was the busiest in the exhibit area and Atlantic’s clients had very favorable comments about the quality of the pork and the product’s flavor profile,” said Mason, who also distributed the U.S. pork recipe book “Cooking for Comfort” at the show.
While Atlantic put a special focus on the pork side of its business at this year’s show, U.S. beef also attracted avid interest from attendees. As in past years, USMEF member Certified Angus Beef® had a strong presence at the event.