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Second half should bring strong meat exports

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USMEF said recent trade agreements will provide tailwind for market growth.

Despite a recent slump in exports due to production challenges, the second half of 2020 should be very strong due, in part, to recent trade agreements, U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) president and chief executive officer Dan Halstrom said this week.

“Finally, we look forward to some tailwinds after having some significant headwinds in 2018 and 2019,” he said.

There is no bigger deal than the Japan-U.S. agriculture agreement, which was implemented Jan. 1, 2020, he said. The Japan market is worth almost $2 billion.

“The key here was getting us on a level playing field with our international competition, specifically Australia but also Canada and Mexico, whereas in 2019 we were at a 13% duty disadvantage,” Halstrom said.

The U.S. is already seeing the benefit. “We are seeing us regain share from Australia particularly, and we’re seeing the volumes grow in Japan,” he pointed out.

Although May exports to Japan dipped 33% from a year ago in volume to 19,986 metric tons and 36% in value to $121.9 million, USMEF reported that exports through May remained ahead of last year’s pace, increasing 5% in volume to 134,138 mt and 2% in value to $841.7 million.

USMEF recently conducted live cooking seminars on Instagram for Japanese consumers to learn how to cook American meat -- funded by the National Pork Board and the Beef Checkoff Program. The demonstrations featured popular cooking celebrity Rika Yukimasa preparing U.S. beef and pork in her own kitchen.

As a bonus, the campaign – titled “Learning American Meat Cooking by Simple English” – was a bilingual program in Japanese and English. USMEF’s purpose was to attract people who are interested in cooking and those interested in a simple English lesson, such as parents with school-aged children at home.

Another critical trade deal was U.S.-China Phase One Economic & Trade Agreement, which brought key regulatory changes in China for U.S. beef.

Halstrom said, “The first month to really see significant progress was May, when we saw 1,700 metric tons exported, which was one of the largest months directly to China since 2003 with [bovine spongiform encephalopathy].”

Through May, U.S. beef exports to China were up 66% from a year ago to just under 5,000 mt, with value up 71% to $39 million, USMEF noted.

To raise the profile of U.S. beef and pork and increase how often they are shared and recommended online, USMEF recently conducted on-site staff training for two popular e-commerce companies in Shanghai, China. Funded by the Beef Checkoff Program and National Pork Board, the training with Penguin Market and Acorn Fresh included education, cooking demonstrations and tastings.

USMEF consultant Sanji Jiang highlighted a variety of U.S. beef and pork cuts, offering a host of cooking applications, storage tips and defrosting techniques. He also explained the difference between grass-fed beef and grain-fed beef and emphasized the advantages of U.S. beef and pork over competitors’ products.

The featured cuts were U.S. beef rib-eye steak, heel muscle, chuck flap and rib fingers, along with U.S. pork CT butt and spareribs.

Penguin Market has introduced several U.S. red meat products in the past year, including beef steak, spicy beef strips, burger patties and pork spareribs. Acorn Fresh is the fresh food brand under Acorn International. U.S. beef products are the only imported brand currently being sold on its e-commerce platform, and sales are gradually increasing.

“Since these two e-commerce companies have never received training on U.S. red meat before, we wanted to provide it for the employees, with a goal of increasing their knowledge and understanding of U.S. red meat,” said Ming Liang, USMEF marketing director in China. “Each training provided an opportunity for us to introduce them to new cuts of U.S. beef and pork and share ideas for selling more of these cuts.”

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