Last week USMEF hosted a group of 14 meat buyers from major Korean retailer Emart and importer Hanjung Foods. They were accompanied to the United States by USMEF-Korea Director Jihae Yang and Retail Specialist Junil Park. Support for the team’s activities was provided by the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) and the Beef Checkoff Program.
At USMEF headquarters in Denver, the team heard presentations from senior staff on the U.S. beef production system, demand trends and USMEF’s role in international marketing and promotion. Next they toured the Agricultural Research, Development and Education Center at Colorado State University for in-depth information on animal health and meat production research, and visited the JBS beef plant in Greeley, a Five Rivers Cattle Feeding operation near Kersey, Colo., and Sylvan Dale Ranch near Loveland, Colo.
Last week’s BSE announcement created some anxiety among the buyers, but Yang said they were pleased to learn details about the case and that market access for U.S. beef would not be affected.
“The reaction from the government of Korea has been science-based and appropriate, and that has helped us reassure our customers about the safety of U.S. beef and continued access to our product,” Yang said. “There will be some short-term impact on sales and the timing of promotions, but we have certainly come a long way compared to the situation a few years ago.
“This was also an opportunity for this group of buyers to see firsthand how the BSE case did not diminish consumer confidence or impact beef demand in the United States,” she added. “BSE news can be a bit overwhelming and confusing for Korean consumers, so this experience will help the buyers communicate effectively with their customers.”
Last year U.S. beef exports raced to a very fast start in Korea, due in part to FMD-related concerns over domestic supplies, but 2012 export volume has been fairly consistent with the second half of 2011. Through April, exports to Korea totaled 47,135 metric tons (104 million pounds) valued at $220 million.