USMEF Completes Spring Training in China
China’s meat processors, traders and distributors have a big appetite and are keenly interested in information detailing the production of U.S. beef. To increase awareness and appreciation of U.S. beef products and build relationships with Chinese companies, USMEF recently conducted a series of U.S. training sessions in China and Hong Kong. The May 9-17 seminars, conducted by USMEF-Beijing’s Donald Song and USMEF consultant Ryan Murphy, were held in Beijing, Hangzhou, Hefei, Nanjing (two seminars), Wuxi and Shanghai, reaching an estimated 135 Chinese meat industry professionals. Interest in the sessions was high: one participant drove 8 hours from Inner Mongolia to Beijing. Judging from the questions asked and the seminar topics that generated the most discussion, production statistics and “quick facts” were the items of most interest. The participants were interested in the financial aspects of U.S. production, including feed prices, profit/loss per animal for hog producers as well as processors and packers, retail and wholesale prices in the U.S. and information on U.S. industry marketing arrangements. Feedback from participants was positive, and they were appreciative of the effort that was taken to explain the science behind the factors that affect product quality. For example, the participants said that they were aware of water-holding capacity and pH as well as marbling and color scores, but they had never had the ranges of these characteristics explained to them, and how slaughter-related factors such as pH decline and rapid chilling influence final product quality. “The feedback suggests that the seminars were successful in increasing the Chinese meat companies’ interest in using U.S. beef in their operations,” said Song. “The seminars also provide an opportunity to initiate working relationships with these companies.” USMEF is now discussing ways to build upon this first series of multi-city training sessions. There is no question that there is interest in other areas such as Inner Mongolia and western China. As the knowledge base expands, USMEF is considering the development of a more extensive program such as a “Beef Boot Camp” or “Round-Up” to explore various facets of the U.S. industry in more detail. USMEF took its educational and outreach program to the far reaches of China. USMEF’s Steve Mo and northeast China merchandiser Louisa Liu visited restaurant operators in Manzhouli, a bustling border town near the Republic of Mongolia and Russian borders. The trip to northeast China included chef training events in Changchun, capital of Jilin Province in the heart of China’s corn country, and other chef training in Beijing in mid-June.USMEF also held intensive training sessions with several of Hong Kong’s largest red meat importers on June 7 and 8. A cutting and cooking demonstration featuring products such as chuck flap tail, beef rib fingers and heel muscle followed an overview. Leading Chinese fast food chain Fairwood, which recently agreed to run a joint U.S. beef and pork hot-pot promotion with USMEF, also attended. On June 10, USMEF held another training session for 25 chefs of a major Macau restaurant chain. According to USMEF-Hong Kong’s John Lam, “We are seeing major traction with U.S. beef in Hong Kong and Macau. Fairwood’s use of not only undervalued cuts, but also loin items is a first by a Hong Kong QSR (quick-serve restaurant).” Funding for the USMEF programs in China was drawn from USDA’s Market Access Program, Beef Checkoff and several state organizations.