A Big Part
By Dennis Sun
A report came out recently from the United States Meat Export Federation (USMEF) providing information on the export of U.S. meat to other countries worldwide. Cattle, pork and lamb from across the U.S. are all important protein sources in people’s kitchens today.
Most of us have heard of USMEF but don’t completely understand how important it is to the U.S. meat industry.
USMEF is the trade association responsible for developing international markets for the U.S. red meat industry. The association is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and various checkoffs.
The beef, pork, lamb, corn and soybean checkoff programs, as well as members representing nine industry sectors including beef/veal production and feeding, pork production and feeding, packing and processing, purveying and trading, oilseed production, feed grains production, farm, ranch and livestock organizations and supply and service organizations make up USMEF.
The structure of USMEF looks similar to a huge corporation with an executive board and an executive committee representing the nine industry sectors. I would guess without the various checkoffs, it could not operate and do the work it does. USMEF is the main reason our beef and lamb products are so popular around the world.
Beef exports add an extra $350 to every fed cow we process here in the U.S., and the goal is to have these carcasses worth $500 in the next 10 years. Some say the U.S. can easily eat all the beef and lamb we produce. I don’t know the answer to that, but I realize our meat industry needs to export our products to grow. This means we have to market our meat products better than other countries.
We know the U.S. has a superior meat product edge, and once people in other countries taste our beef and lamb, they will want more. We also know value-added organ meats and parts of the offal, like tripe, exported to Mexico, Russia and the Middle East have helped raise the price of our livestock.
Promoting American meat requires more than shipping meat products to other countries. It is using social media to show people at home how to store, defrost and cook these different cuts of U.S. meats and what the difference between grass-fat and corn-fed beef is.
Remember, the people who want American beef and lamb are the people who have been eating fish, soybeans and rice as a protein source for the last 10 years. If they did have a cut of meat, it was so tough, they cut it up for stew meat.
Now, due to the rising cost of living in these countries, they can afford American meats and even have a BBQ grill on their patio. Someone has to get American meat products to grocery stores in different countries and ultimately to foreign consumers. But, they also have to make sure the consumer has a favorable experience with that piece of meat on their plate.
This is part of what we want our checkoff dollars to do. So far, they have done a good job at it.