With projections for U.S. beef production forecast to be down in the year ahead, USMEF and the Beef Innovations Group (BIG), funded by the Beef Checkoff, met this week to strategize about ways to maximize the value of the beef carcass.
Meeting in a session held prior to this week’s USMEF Strategic Planning conference in Indianapolis, USMEF international directors representing Japan, South Korea, China, the ASEAN, Mexico, the European Union, Russia and other areas heard and responded to a presentation by Chris Calkins and Bridget Wasser of BIG regarding options for reapproaching how beef carcasses are fabricated. Meat quality improvement is the primary objective of any fabrication or new product changes.
As Calkins noted, the current approach to meat fabrication is driven more by tradition and the fact that early butchers were looking for production practices that minimized labor.
“Based on what we observed today, we see there is potential to add value to beef primals without diminishing the quality of the beef cuts produced,” said Joel Haggard, USMEF senior vice president for the Asia/Pacific region. “Of course, the primary consideration from our perspective is how this change might affect the availability of products that are in demand internationally, and would it increase the value those cuts bring back to exporters, processors and producers.”
The potential change in beef carcass fabrication practices would not be entirely without precedent, Calkins said. He explained that in years past, there have been regional differences in how carcasses would be fabricated, affecting the final product mix.
“In the coming year there could be a number of factors that significantly affect demand in the global beef market and opportunities for U.S. beef,” said Philip Seng, USMEF president and CEO. “We expect to see expanded beef access in early 2013 to Japan, which in the past was our top beef export market. In addition, Codex’s approval of a maximum residue level (MRL) for ractopamine has improved export conditions for Taiwan.”
Seng also noted that there is continued growth in demand for U.S. beef in the Middle East and Central and South America, an increased quota for the EU, increased opportunities in Russia, and there is potential for an explosion in sales to China if the governments of the U.S. and China can resolve the issues that currently keep U.S. beef out of that market.
“When you consider all of these factors, it is imperative that our industry work collaboratively to get the most value per pound from our protein resources,” said Seng. “When demand exceeds supply, we want to be sure that we are putting our products where they command the highest return.”
The discussion between USMEF and BIG will continue in the weeks ahead as USMEF’s international directors assess opportunities in their markets while BIG staff look at the implications for U.S. fabricators as well as the potential impact of the changes on the domestic market.