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Frequently Asked Questions

Costco Meat Case in KoreaInvesting dollars toward foreign market development is one of the most significant ways the Beef Checkoff drives demand for beef. Competition is fierce on the global stage, and the checkoff works diligently to persuade foreign countries that U.S. beef is their best choice. As a result of the checkoff’s efforts, more consumers around the world want the high-quality products U.S. cattlemen and women produce.

That’s why beef producers understand the importance of using checkoff dollars to promote U.S. beef in foreign countries. The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) is a subcontractor to the Beef Checkoff that carries out this mission. From attending international food events and conducting training sessions to working with retailers and encouraging restaurants to feature U.S. beef, the USMEF’s hands-on efforts put U.S. beef on more dinner plates around the world.

Korea has now become one of the leading U.S. beef markets in the Pacific, less than a decade following street protests opposing the reopening of the market. In 2018, beef exports to Korea increased 30 percent year-over-year in volume and jumped 43 percent in value, increasing from $526 million in 2017 to $1.75 billion in 20181. A big factor contributing to this gain was Costco officially converting its imported chilled beef selection from Australian to 100-percent-U.S. beef. This multi-year effort by USMEF to persuade Costco store managers to carry U.S. beef has resulted in a wider selection of U.S. beef cuts available to consumers.

USMEF DiamondTo continue increasing the visibility of U.S. beef, USMEF has established the Diamond Plus Precious Gourmet Selection awards. These awards encourage Taiwanese restaurants to serve and promote U.S. beef. According to Davis Wu, USMEF director in Taiwan, Diamond Plus Precious honors restaurants that demonstrate “the spirit of dependable and faithful partners who support U.S. beef products and promise to provide high-quality U.S. beef cuisine to Taiwanese consumers.” The USMEF first presented these awards in 2018 and will continue to honor deserving restaurants – choosing 20 each year. By creating an incentive for Taiwanese restaurants to feature high-quality U.S. beef, the Diamond Plus Precious awards are helping U.S. beef establish a stronger foothold in that country, while also providing consumers clear and accessible ways to learn about the best restaurants offering these products.

USMEF Diamond CeremonyIn Japan, USMEF has been conducting a series of training sessions for cooking instructors. The goal is to show these educators the variety of ways to cook and serve U.S. beef, so they can then introduce these creative methods to their students. Rika Yukimasa, a well-known cooking instructor in Japan, has helped USMEF in the campaign, providing cooking tips and sharing information about U.S. beef’s quality attributes with fellow instructors. Tapping into U.S. beef’s superior quality and versatility is an impactful way to spur interest in the product. One training session, during which the USMEF explained the U.S. beef production system, drew thousands of participant applications of which 50 were selected.

When it comes to directly connecting with the Japanese consumer, USMEF’s Tokyo office has launched a social media campaign to promote U.S. beef while also encouraging consumer participation. USMEF’s Instagram, a photo-based social media platform, has been calling on consumers to share their experiences with U.S. beef at home and at restaurants. Individuals who share photos of U.S. beef “pound steak” are eligible for prizes. The pound steak campaign was followed by a “My Pound Steak” Instagram event to further encourage photo sharing of this great product. This social media effort is bringing U.S. beef to a platform where consumers are most active.

Japan pound steak“The number of active Instagram users now exceeds 29 million in Japan – up 150% from a year ago,” said Takemichi Yamashoji, USMEF director in Japan. “Realizing the popularity of social media and how consumers are using it to make decisions on what to eat, USMEF will keep focusing on these kinds of activities to more widely and effectively convey information on U.S. beef.”

The superior quality of U.S. beef has no bounds. The checkoff’s goal has always been to drive demand for beef. With programs like these in place, the checkoff is introducing high-quality beef to consumers who may never have enjoyed it before but will now continue to request it from their grocers and restaurants. Visibility is key, and U.S. beef producers recognize that investing dollars in these efforts is necessary to maintain and drive demand, so prices can remain strong even during more challenging times.

cow in a pasture

Frequently Asked Questions

In fiscal year 2018, the Beef Checkoff program invested checkoff funds of $7.36 million in foreign marketing and education because exports represent a significant growth opportunity for U.S. beef producers. By selling U.S. beef in more than 80 countries worldwide, the beef industry adds back an average value of $318.66 per head for fed slaughter to U.S. beef producers, according to data released by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). USDA research also showed, from January through August 2018, beef export value climbed 18 percent from a year ago to $5.51 billion.

China provides an interesting example of how beef exports benefit the U.S. beef industry. China was one of only a few international markets that never reopened to U.S. beef following the 2003 bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) case — but that changed in June 2017, as the U.S. and China announced a long-awaited market reopening.

U.S. beef exports to South Korea also received a major boost in fiscal year 2017 when Costco officially converted the imported chilled beef selection at all 15 of its Korean locations from Australian product to 100 percent U.S. beef. The move followed multi-year, checkoff-funded efforts to both restore consumer confidence in U.S. beef and persuade Costco executives that U.S. beef sales would match or exceed those of Australian beef. Costco’s move represents about 33.1 million pounds of incremental new beef business in 2017 alone, with additional growth opportunities.

“The value of exports exceeds the value of imports for a similar volume of product because exports command a higher per-pound price,” said Laurie Bryant, Cattlemen’s Beef Board member. “In other words, importing beef creates a net increase for the U.S. beef industry by allowing us to export more high-value beef.”

The export/import landscape is a nuanced balancing act. Importing beef creates a net increase for the U.S. beef industry by allowing us to export more high-value beef.

tractor moving hay

Frequently Asked Questions

The old adage goes: “It’s a great big world out there.” When it comes to beef export markets, did you know the U.S. exports to more than 80 countries? And, did you know those efforts to promote your product overseas add value back to your operation? To put it into perspective, as of August 2018, value per head for fed slaughter was valued at $318.66, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

“For the sake of future generations, it is essential that we continue to look forward and never stop extolling the benefits of global trade,” said Dan Halstrom, President and CEO of USMEF, contractor to the beef checkoff. “USMEF is excited about the recent market access developments as U.S. beef exports continue to achieve tremendous growth – not only in our mainstay Asian markets but also in the Western Hemisphere.”

Foreign Marketing in Action: Cooking in China

USMEF recently conducted four consumer cooking classes in Shanghai in an effort to increase awareness of U.S. beef by engaging young professionals with an interest in home cooking. The classes combined education with social media activities to reach a wider audience across China’s most populous city. Each class featured a dietitian presenting the benefits and attributes of U.S. beef and sharing information about their nutritional aspects.

Japanese Journalists

The Minnesota Beef Council recently hosted a group of journalists from Japan interested in learning more about the beef industry. Journalists who participated included a food blogger, a writer for a food and wine magazine, writers for both a men’s and a women’s magazine and a photographer. Plus, a USMEF representative of the Rancher’s Legacy and Big Steer Meats shared experiences in an effort to expose the visitors to the beef processing sector. The visit enabled the journalists to ask questions and take photos of exemplary industry representatives so they could write about the experiences when they return to Japan.

Heartland Team Tour

The USMEF Heartland Team recently returned from a six-day educational trip to Osaka and Tokyo, Japan, to share and learn about ways to expand beef markets in Asia. The team met with representatives and perhaps, more importantly, Japanese consumers to learn about the country’s tastes and preferences in the U.S. beef market.

“USMEF continues to work to show U.S. producers the export market potential in Japan and how we create demand for U.S. red meat and develop the Japanese market,” continued Halstrom. “Japan is our largest market, and despite some of the trade challenges we’ve faced, the numbers continue to look very good. We hope producers see what we have accomplished as an industry but also what we need to continue to develop to keep export trends going in this same positive direction.”

man riding horse while herding cows

Frequently Asked Questions

As cattle producers, you may know we import beef and beef products into the U.S. But do you know why it helps meet domestic demand for beef?

Let’s start with the basic facts:

  • Importers pay a $1-per-head equivalent on all live cattle, beef and beef products imported to the U.S., adding an average of $7.4 million per year to the Beef Checkoff budget between Fiscal Years 2015-2017 according to Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB).
  • The U.S. is the fourth-largest beef exporting country and the largest beef importing country according to data from FAS/USDA. However, the story behind those numbers is not as simple as the need for more cattle to meet demand but instead, the need to meet demand for certain parts of the animal such as lean trim.
  • According to the white paper, “The U.S. Ground Beef Market: Why Imports Help,” lean trim is in very short supply in the U.S. because the number of beef and dairy cows producers are sending to market has declined significantly during the last decade. As a result, the U.S. simply is not producing enough lean trim to meet demand right here in this country.

The vast majority of beef that the U.S. imports is lean trim (90-plus percent lean) primarily from Australia and New Zealand. In the U.S., we mix that lean trim with 50/50 lean and fat ground beef to meet domestic consumer demand for lean beef.1

The U.S. domestic supply is mainly from fed cattle. A by-product of the retail beef cuts produced from fed cattle is 50 percent fat trimmings. These are mixed with lean trimmings to produce ground beef for hamburgers, meatballs, — hence the need for additional lean beef that is supplied by imports. At the same time, it increases the value of the fat trimmings.

Without this imported trim, the U.S. beef supply would run far short of the lean ground beef required to meet that consumer demand. A growing number of consumers say they would turn to other, leaner protein options if lean ground beef was unavailable or too expensive.2

More recently, following checkoff-funded educational seminars and workshops on alternative beef cuts, importers began diversifying their U.S. beef portfolios, adding brisket, top blade, flap steak and sirloin.

There are cattle production systems in other parts of the world where lean beef can be, and should be, produced as a primary product. Over time, it makes sense for the U.S. to import more of its lean beef while selling more high-value fed beef, both domestically and in the export market.

Considering the entire picture, including the value of all the U.S.-grown beef that goes into the ground beef supply, imported lean beef actually enhances the value of the beef market. In addition, importing lean beef helps beef farmers and ranchers to maximize their competitive advantage of beef production.

Frequently Asked Questions

Press Release via U.S. Meat Export Federation

Calendar year 2017 was a record-setter for U.S. beef exports, with values exceeding $7 billion for only the second time.

Beef exports totaled 2.8 billion pounds, up 6 percent from 2016. This was the fourth-largest volume on record and the second-largest of the post-BSE era. Beef export value reached $7.27 billion, up 15 percent year-over-year and 2 percent above the previous high achieved in 2014 (to $7.13 billion).

For December only, beef export value was up 9 percent from a year ago to $672.9 million – the second-highest of 2017 and the third-highest on record. December volume was down 3 percent from a year ago to 249.7 million pounds.

Beef exports accounted for 12.9 percent of total production in 2017 and 10.4 percent for muscle cuts, down from 13.7 percent and 10.5 percent, respectively, in 2016. Beef export value averaged $286.38 per head of fed slaughter, up 9 percent from 2016 and the second-highest on record, trailing only the $300.36 average posted in 2014.

Japan leads beef export growth; value records fall in other key markets

Japan solidified its position as the leading market for U.S. beef in 2017, with volume climbing 19 percent year-over-year to 678.1 million pounds and value up 25 percent to $1.89 billion – new post-BSE records. Chilled exports to Japan expanded even more rapidly, reaching 327.8 million pounds (up 32 percent) valued at $1.102 billion (up 37 percent) as U.S. beef captured more than half of Japan’s imported chilled beef market – a new high for U.S. market share. Japan accounts for nearly $75 in export value per head of fed slaughter and delivers critical premiums for certain cuts. For example, Japan’s imports of U.S. beef tongue averaged $12.13 per head and $26.44 per head for short plate.

The U.S. industry is marketing a wide range of beef cuts in Japan and the market holds potential for additional growth. But market access is a concern, with imports of Australian and Mexican beef subject to significantly lower duties and beef from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Mexico all poised to gain further tariff relief through the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Other 2017 beef export highlights include:

  • Beef exports to South Korea increased 3 percent in volume (to 406 million pounds) and climbed 15 percent in value to $1.22 billion, easily outpacing the previous year’s record. Chilled U.S. beef rose, increasing 73 percent in volume (to 99.5 million pounds) and 78 percent in value (to $405.8 million). Demand is especially strong in the Korean retail sector, where consumer confidence in the quality and safety of U.S. beef continued to gain momentum. Korea’s imports of U.S. beef are now subject to a 21.3 percent tariff, down from 24 percent in 2017 and well below the 40 percent rate in effect prior to implementation of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS). The tariff rate is scheduled to decline to zero by 2026.
  • Mexico remained the second-largest volume market (524.6 million pounds, down 2 percent from 2016) and third-largest in value ($979.7 million, up slightly). It is an especially important market for U.S. beef shoulder clods, rounds and variety meat.
  • Exports to Taiwan set a new value record, increasing 13 percent from a year ago to $409.7 million. Volume was up 2 percent to 98.8 million pounds. U.S. beef holds 72 percent of Taiwan’s chilled beef market, the highest share of any Asian destination. Taiwan is a key market for secondary beef cuts such as the clod, heart, petite tender and top sirloin cap.
  • Demand in Hong Kong rebounded from a slow start to post a strong performance in 2017, increasing 16 percent in volume (288.2 million pounds) and 29 percent in value ($884.1 million). After China’s mid-year lifting of its ban on U.S. beef, exports to China totaled 6.7 million pounds valued at $31 million. While eligible supplies remain limited due to China’s import restrictions, the market holds significant growth potential and is already one of the highest value markets for U.S. beef on a per-pound basis.
  • Record exports to the Philippines and Singapore and strong growth in Indonesia and Vietnam pushed up export volume to the ASEAN region by 37 percent to 90.3 million pounds, while value climbed 34 percent to $210.9 million.
  • Strong performances in Chile, Peru and Colombia led the way for U.S. beef in South America, where export volume increased 24 percent to 62.6 million pounds and value was up 23 percent to $114.8 million. Shipments to Brazil, which resumed in April after a 13-year absence, totaled 4.5 million pounds valued at $7.4 million.
  • Led by strong beef liver demand in South Africa, exports to Africa increased 78 percent in volume (to 48.5 million pounds) and 74 percent in value (to $22 million). Since reopening to U.S. beef in 2016, South Africa has emerged as the sixth-largest destination for U.S. beef variety meat and second-largest for livers.
    The above data was released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), sub-contractor to the beef checkoff. Complete 2017 export results for U.S. beef are available on USMEF’s statistics web page. Monthly charts for U.S. beef exports are also available online.

If you have questions, please contact Joe Schuele at or call 303-226-7309.

cows with tags

Frequently Asked Questions

Press Release via USMEF

Introducing U.S. beef in a country where it is not well-known, the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), sub-contractor to the beef checkoff, partnered with the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) at the Taste Ambassadors exhibition, an event for HRI professionals in Bucharest, Romania. USMEF joined other agricultural organizations in showcasing U.S. products, presenting new culinary ideas and meeting with Romania’s HRI distributors and their clients.

U.S. beef also received exclusive attention at a special culinary demonstration and tasting featuring U.S. ribeye. The presentation was conducted by Stefan Popescu, executive chef of Pullman Bucharest Hotel and one of the most well-respected chefs in Romania.

“Chef Stefan has done a fantastic job of promoting U.S. beef, and he was able to demonstrate the high quality and consistency of the product, along with its advantages over the competition in consistency, juiciness and flavor,” said USMEF Representative Yuri Barutkin.

A crowd of Romanian HRI professionals and food media gathers around the U.S. booth to watch Popescu cook U.S. beef

Barutkin noted that although U.S. beef is present in select Romanian restaurants, there are still large gaps in understanding the product and U.S. beef’s advantages are not widely known in Romania.

“The goal of USMEF in this kind of market is to educate the HRI audience about U.S. beef, ensure that buyers and traders are aware of the supply of U.S. beef that is available and to introduce beef alternative cuts,” said Barutkin. “In Romania, as is the case with many countries in eastern and central Europe where disposable incomes are rather tight, alternative cuts of U.S. beef present good opportunities for some budget-conscious consumers and allow many more restaurants to feature U.S. marbled beef on their menus.”

USMEF will follow up on this small project with an educational masterclass for a Romanian HRI audience later in the year.

The Taste Ambassador event followed USMEF’s participation in a U.S. beef promotion earlier this spring at a steakhouse inside the Marriott Hotel in Bucharest.

“In recent years, this steakhouse has been holding special events for beef from different origins – for example, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Argentina and Japan,” explained Barutkin.

USMEF presented information on U.S. beef and its advantages over the competition, with Chef Nicolae Lica preparing a dinner featuring a range of U.S. beef cuts.