Twenty-five major Asian importers, retailers and restaurateurs assembled in Tokyo last week to evaluate almost two dozen new-to-market U.S. beef cuts. Funding for this activity was provided by the Beef Checkoff Program and the USDA Market Access Program (MAP)
U.S. packer representatives based in the region – including those from Cargill, JBS, National Beef and Tyson Foods – joined the event, in addition to key Japanese buyers and end-users. Twenty-two beef cuts were used in cutting demonstrations and tastings conducted at the seminar. Commercial boxed samples of the new items were also displayed, allowing buyers and end users to observe specification and packaging options.
“It is imperative that we intensify our effort to maximize carcass utilization by diversifying our export portfolio,” noted USMEF President and CEO Philip Seng. “This is exactly the type of event that moves us toward that goal.”
Buyers have been actively seeking alternative cuts as prices of items traditionally exported to Asia, such as short plate and short ribs, have skyrocketed over the past year due to surging regional demand and constrained U.S. supplies.
“Because of the affordability of the items featured at this seminar, we believe they offer potential to displace products supplied by our competitors,” added Seng.
USMEF forecasts that available beef supplies for Asia will tighten this year, as herd rebuilding begins in Australia and any increase in U.S. supplies remains a year or more away.
Items cut and sampled at the seminar included beef clod hearts, beef loin wing and brisket bones. Professional Japanese retail merchandiser Kemi Nobuhide conducted the cutting demonstration and led a discussion on the attributes of these cuts. He explained how each of these cuts can be merchandised into tasty and affordable Asian menu items such as shabu shabu and yakiniku.
Participant feedback on the seminar was very positive.
“The Korean and Chinese markets compete more and more for supplies of certain, popular cuts,” said Pillhyun Nam of Janghara Meat, a long-time importer of U.S. beef. “We need to examine new cuts.”
In emerging markets such as Vietnam, cost is the key driver of demand.
“We supply U.S. beef to the growing Korean barbecue scene in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City,” said Chu Quyet Tien of Tien Tien Company. “Customers of popular family-style chains are sensitive to menu prices, so we need to have more options in order to keep U.S. beef strongly featured on our menu.”
USMEF also presented U.S. beef market updates to the group, with a particular focus on increasing affordability and value. Prior to the seminar, the Asian buyers group observed U.S. beef featured at Tokyo retail outlets. The group was joined by USMEF staff from the Asia-Pacific region, who assembled earlier in the week to discuss regional marketing plans and assess the outlook for U.S. beef, pork and lamb exports to the region.