Food companies from Mexico, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, South Korea and Southeast Asia gathered at the University of Wisconsin to participate in the inaugural USMEF Global Further Processing Seminar – an event focused on promoting and enhancing utilization of U.S. raw materials. Funding support for the seminar was provided by the Beef Checkoff Program, the Pork Checkoff and the USDA Market Access Program (MAP).
The seminar’s objective was to provide further processing companies with ideas and knowledge on how to improve the quality of their products, while also helping them gain a better understanding of U.S. beef and pork raw materials. In all, 26 companies were represented at the event, which was held over two days at the UW Meat Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin.
“These were owners, managers and directors of businesses who were given a lot of useful information on U.S. beef and pork products,” said Basil Aleong, managing director for Great Foods Limited, a Trinidad-based food manufacturer and distributor. “It was very good for companies to learn about different meat trends around the world and take in discussion and demonstrations on different cuts of U.S. beef and pork that many of us may not have known about. The seminar focused on a lot of things that affect food companies.”
Led by Dr. Jeff Sindelar, UW associate professor of meat science, and Dr. Andrew Milkowski, adjunct professor of meat science, the seminar highlighted the superior quality of U.S. raw materials, focusing on flavor and palatability of grain-fed U.S. beef and pork. It also pointed out the consistency of specific traits, such as pH, chemical lean point and specification – qualities that are extremely important to further processors when selecting raw materials.
“We worked with the companies on how to improve the quality and consistency of their products, and that starts with using high-quality raw materials,” said Sindelar. “But we also wanted the participants to be able to improve their manufacturing processes and better understand the additional factors that can affect finished product quality.”
Those attending the seminar were provided with an overview of the U.S. red meat industry, a review of important meat quality concepts, advice for utilizing non-meat ingredients and a list of considerations when freezing and defrosting raw materials. They also received information about developing quality control programs and an update on the importance of food safety and sanitation.
“Companies from Central America and Mexico that took part were medium-sized companies that are trying to expand, so this was a great opportunity for them to learn about products and processes,” said Gerardo Rodriguez, USMEF director of trade development for Central America and the Dominican Republic. “Also, the seminar was very beneficial for companies that have been facing challenges. For example, one member of our team explained a specific problem and the people at the University of Wisconsin were able to give him three different options for addressing. I spoke with him after he had returned from the seminar, and he was very grateful.”
The seminar also included product development demonstrations for ham, bacon, frankfurters and smoked sausage. The demonstrations focused on proper raw material selection and manufacturing processes to improve finished product quality.
To provide tasting samples, USMEF included a cooking demonstration and product sampling at the event’s conclusion.
Many companies participating in the seminar also visited packing companies and retail outlets in the area. Sabrina Yin, USMEF director in the ASEAN region, led a team of meat processors from Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam on a visit to the JBS Packerland beef plant in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and the Cargill pork facility in Ottumwa, Iowa. They also visited a Copps Supermarket and a Target Superstore in Green Bay.
“We took them to the packing facilities to help them get a better understanding of the source of the raw materials,” said Yin, adding that her team consisted mainly of first-time visitors to the United States who are regular importers of U.S. red meat. “The retail visits provided an idea of how large local retail stores operate and the range of U.S. raw and processed beef and pork items available to local consumers, as well as current merchandising trends in the U.S.”
USMEF intends to continue the program with the University of Wisconsin and potentially invite participants from additional regions around the world as a way of introducing more companies to U.S. pork and beef for further processing.
“Further processors in our region – and in many other regions around the world – need to understand that U.S. beef and pork has a lot to offer as a raw material in further processed products,” said Elizabeth Wunderlich, USMEF Caribbean representative. “This seminar provided a great venue for promoting not only the superior taste of U.S. beef and pork, but also the product consistency and how that will improve finished product quality. That is an important message for these companies.”