In an expression of confidence in the safety and quality of U.S. beef, a group of Taiwanese key opinion leaders joined USMEF for a dinner reception last week at iconic Taipei restaurant Les Sens to celebrate the resumption of U.S. beef sales to Taiwan.
More than 15 television and print media outlets were in attendance as a number of prominent Taiwan industrialists, artists, ex-political officials and other guests enjoyed U.S. prime rib prepared by Jimmy Zhang, celebrity Taiwan chef and a long-time loyal U.S. beef user. Funded with support from the Beef Checkoff Program, the event helped generate substantial positive media coverage surrounding the return of U.S. beef on a grand scale to Taiwan.
Taiwan’s Sept. 11 implementation of a new rule establishing a maximum residue limit for the feed additive ractopamine was the trigger for the resumption of imports by major end-users.
“We were pleased with the turnout of key Taiwan influencers, which shows both their confidence in the safety of U.S. beef and the attraction of its quality,” said Davis Wu, USMEF Taiwan director.
Preceding the dinner, Brent Christensen, deputy director of the American Institute of Taiwan, expressed his gratitude to the administration of Taiwan President Ma Ying Jeou for standing behind the safe production system of U.S. beef. USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng also thanked the guests, noting that U.S. beef has been served in top Taiwan establishments for more than 30 years.
U.S. beef exports to Taiwan surged in the week of Sept. 7-13, with USDA reporting shipments of 1,046 metric tons, a record for 2012. Some of this activity may be restocking of inventories. Wu expects a continuation of aggressive shipments into the fall, but notes that the expectation of smaller overall supplies in 2013, plus the prospect of Japan opening to beef from cattle under 30 months of age, could create challenges next year.
Nevertheless, the reestablishment of the U.S. beef supply channel in Taiwan is taking place at a brisk pace, especially as importers seek to prepare for next week’s Moon Festival, a peak consumption period and busy time for foodservice operators, both Western and local. USMEF is working with major retailers to kick-start sales of chilled beef, which are expected to rise toward the end of the year and into January as the February lunar New Year approaches.
USMEF is actively promoting a wider range of products among Taiwan end users. At the Sept. 18 dinner, a variety of different U.S. cuts were displayed including chuck eye roll, boneless chuck short rib, top blade muscle and super pastrami.
“Our strategy for increasing U.S. beef usage next year will be implemented at the cut level,” said Wu. “Following our nine-month hiatus from the market, we will redouble our efforts to promote the versatility of U.S. beef by providing education to importers, retailers and foodservice outlets.”
Total U.S. beef muscle cut imports in August 2012 were 239 metric tons valued at $2.25 million. Compared to August 2011, the volume dropped 92 percent and value fell 87 percent. For the year-to-date, U.S. beef exports to Taiwan were 8,677 metric tons valued at $58 million, down 53.8 percent in volume and 51.5 percent in value versus last year.