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Beyond Wyoming, Taiwan rises to the top as export market

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Torrington – Wyoming beef producers learn exporting their beef overseas is currently in its infancy, but it could prove to be a big market for them in the future. 

Andrew Carpenter, the international trade manager for the Wyoming Business Council, told cattle ranchers during the recent Southeast Wyoming Beef Production Convention, the number of Wyoming producers who want to export beef is limited, but it will grow in the future as more infrastructure is put in place.

The state is looking to increase its exports, particularly for beef. Wyoming is currently ranked 14th overall in beef production, but it is 49th, only ahead of Hawaii, in total exports. 

While exploring export opportunities for the state, Carpenter said that Taiwan quickly popped to the top of the list because of its growing economy, and interest in purchasing more proteins, especially red meat. 

Opportunity

“In Taiwan, Wyoming has a lot of opportunity for agricultural exports,” Carpenter told producers. 

Taiwan is the 10th largest goods trading partner in the U.S., the 14th largest market for exports and seventh in agricultural exports. Taiwan has a growing population exceeding 23 million and very limited ag production. 

“They are looking for American products,” Carpenter said.

The international trade manager sees Wyoming beef becoming a popular commodity in the country. In October, the Wyoming Business Council was involved in shipping beef to Taiwan for a government reception in Taipei. The shipment consisted of ribs and loins to serve about 120 people. 

The country was pleased with the product and has requested more Wyoming beef to be shipped by air. 

“They sell premium beef at steakhouses for over $100 a plate,” Carpenter told producers. “That could be a lot of additional value for Wyoming producers.”

First steps

However, an infrastructure needs to be established before Wyoming producers can become consistent trading partners. 

First, cattlemen would have to be willing to sell beef into international markets, taking on additional risk and putting more effort into moving up the value chain. 

“By selling into Europe, Asian and Pacific markets, there is added traceability and hormone-free and other export requirements producers need to manage for,” Carpenter explained. 

Producers will also need to work together to establish these marketing channels and find solutions to the challenges they face. 

Market development

One of those challenges is market development. 

“Wyoming beef is like any other business, and we have to work together as producers to accomplish our goals. Exporting beef takes a lot of marketing skills. Figuring out the rules of exporting is very complex,” he stated.

But help is available. As part of his job with the Wyoming Business Council, Carpenter is responsible for managing a federal STEP (State Trade and Export Promotion) grant, which provides financial assistance to Wyoming companies looking to export their products. 

“Producers are welcome to see what opportunities are there,” he said.

The Wyoming Business Council also recently joined the U.S. Meat Export Federation program, which promotes American-produced beef throughout the world. 

“They have a strong presence in the Asian-Pacific market, and we will work with them to help promote our product. In the past, they haven’t done state-specific programming, but in this instance, they will probably work with us to promote Wyoming beef and bring some of that value back home to our producers,” he said. 

Key piece

Wyoming is known for the quality of feeder cattle it produces, but about 90,000 head of cattle are finished in the state each year. If an export market is established, that could increase 20 to 30 percent. 

The feed is available but not a marketing incentive, so the extra feed is shipped out of state. 

The key is establishing a USDA-inspected beef processing facility within the state that is willing to work with producers who want to export their beef. Currently, only two USDA-inspected facilities exist in Wyoming, and both primarily target local and regional markets. 

“Finding someone with the capacity and scale to meet the demand is going to take some time,” Carpenter said. “We have to be able to deliver a consistent product, with consistent timing, with more outlets, more restaurants and greater markets.” 

Ranchers who sell beef at a retail level currently have to take the cattle out of state for processing, one rancher pointed out. If large packing facilities like JBS process the cattle and export the beef, they will be the ones to garner most of the premium, he said.

Benefits

Carpenter admitted the people who will benefit first from exporting beef are those who hold cattle and sell them directly to packing facilities like JBS. 

“There are a lot of feedlots around here who buy feeders and grow them out to fat cattle or retain ownership of them through the finishing stage. They will be the first ones to benefit,” he explained. 

The state also needs to work on marketing and building a Wyoming beef brand with more producers. 

“There are a lot of different opinions on what a Wyoming state beef brand should look like and the criteria it’s built around. There is also the question of who owns it and verifies it,” he said. 

Improvements

A lot of infrastructure will be needed to make exporting a reality. 

“The best optimal scenario is to get a working scenario. We may have cattle that are born, raised and fed to finish in Wyoming, then hauled to Colorado for slaughter. It is not essential that they are killed here in Wyoming, but traceability is key because that’s where the premiums come in,” Carpenter said. 

“Our goal is to raise a consistent supply of what countries like Taiwan are looking for – prime beef. What we have are specific things that brand us. They like our Wyoming beef, its flavor, the traceability, open spaces and the cowboy theme we can provide here,” Carpenter explained. “It is a great opportunity, and the challenge for us is to brand and sell beef so there is a premium for our Wyoming producers.”

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to roundup@wylr.net.

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