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By Christy Hemken, WLR Assist. & Crop Editor

Denver – The production and marketing of U.S. beef for the global market took center stage at the recent International Livestock Congress-USA event held in conjunction with the National Western Stock Show in Denver.

When discussing U.S. beef exports to Asia, US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) Senior Vice President Joel Haggard said it’s important to realize the variables in addition to consumer characteristics that impact Asia’s beef imports.

“These are the trends that help to drive or to stifle U.S. beef imports, including politics, economic variables, domestic production, competition, market access conditions and the strategies of competitors,” he explained.

“We continue to face losses throughout the Asian region because we only have partial access for beef products in Korea and Japan. Before BSE, just under 60 percent of our exports went to those markets and we still aren’t running back on full cylinders there. If we were, our industry here would be much healthier,” he said. “Hopefully in 2008 we’ll get some breakthroughs on the access.”

He said it’s too bad that the U.S. is so limited on the Asian market, because right now is such a good time to be in the export markets. “The U.S. dollar is weak and our competition has supply constraints – with Australia in drought – and some competitors who have historically had low prices are having their prices creep up.”

“What we export to Asia are not steaks and hamburgers. We mainly export rib, chuck offal and by-products. Here they’re under-utilized, but over there they fit nicely into Asian cuisines,” explained Haggard. “The demand is for marbled, grain-fed young beef graded USDA Choice or higher. It’s good for our industry because Asian buyers will often pay hefty premiums over those offered by domestic buyers.”

“The Japanese are wealthy, and the wealthiest in the region, and their income distribution is fairly even so the majority can afford our products. They’re well educated, so they have a desire to know more about the food they consume and they’re tech-savvy and early-adopters,” he noted.

The concepts of “harmony,” “natural” and “healthy” are key lifestyle concepts to the Japanese, especially as the population ages, said Haggard. “Also, they’re very self- and family-protective, and on the food side this attitude may be traced to the fact that Japan imports over 60 percent of its caloric intake.”

However, he points out there’s a dichotomy at work. “On one hand there’s a demand for healthy, natural and organic products, but at the same time there’s a premium being placed on convenience and ready-to-eat food.” As more women enter the workforce, a demand has been created for convenient foods.

The Japanese consumers like to establish a relationship of trust with those that are producing a selling the food, which means there’s a keen interest in traceability. “Despite an interest in understanding the parameters of the food they eat, consumers will also tend to buy a product if the safely or quality has been endorsed by influencers,” said Haggard. According to surveys, these include the Japanese government, the U.S. government, celebrities, supermarkets and U.S. producers.

“Like Japan, Korea is a homogenous society and highly urbanized,” said Haggard. “The power of those controlling media has become very strong, an in this environment sensationalism is rife and often has nationalistic undertones.”

He said the implications for the USMEF are that in their approach to consumers they focus on beef safety. “It’s very important for the U.S. to counter with a loud voice and at the same time educate consumers on basic quality and safety issues.”

“Of all our MEF offices in Asia, it’s my opinion that our office in Seoul is the most watched and monitored by the Korean government and the Korean media and by other key influencers in terms of what we say and do,” commented Haggard.

“Chinese consumers are very diverse and are very large geographically and changing very rapidly as incomes grow,” he said. “They’re increasingly exposed to new products, both domestic and foreign.”

A big country, China still maintains different climates, cultures and incomes and a lot of minorities. “Because they weren’t even allowed to travel domestically until recently, the regional characteristics are still strong but are slowly dissipating,” explained Haggard. “The young generation is very willing to experience new things.”

On the cusp of developing a middle class, Haggard said despite what is seen on television about yachts and fine wines in China, the vast majority of citizens are still poor. “The average rural income for 800 million of the Chinese population is $500 to $600 per year.”

“But, there are still about 500 million urbanized residents and among this group we see a mass market we might be able to reach with our products,” he continued. “If you look at it on the urban basis, the first- second- and third-tiered cities are growing up to 20 percent each year in terms of economic output.”

“The Chinese are just starting to develop as tourists themselves, and one of the agreements reached between the U.S. and China was that the Chinese government would start allowing Chinese tourists to visit the U.S., which will expose the people to new ideas and new tastes,” he said.

Concluding his talk on the overview of Asian markets, Haggard said, “The signs are positive for U.S. exports to China, as capital incomes are growing and they’re improving the distributional infrastructure. However, we have a lot of access issues in China and there’s a lot of friction that extends down to our products.”

After details emerged of a non-classical bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) case in Brazil, South Korea announced on Dec. 18 a temporary ban on Brazilian beef. The country is the sixth to take action on the case, joining China, Japan, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. 

Casper – U.S. beef exports grew by 24 percent to 464,301 metric tons in 2007 and are expected to continue that upward trend. The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) predicts the U.S. will be exporting 1.2 million metric tons of beef annually by 2017.
    According to Erin Daley, USMEF manager of research and analysis, growth in exports to Canada, Japan, Korea and the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) contributed to the overall increase despite some remaining market access issues and a three percent decline in exports to the largest market, Mexico. Beef plus beef variety meat exports to Mexico increased one percent in value to $1.185 billion but declined three percent in volume to 359,452 metric tons.
    Exports to Canada increased 37 percent to 132,144 metric tons (291.3 million pounds) valued at $602 million, largely fueled by currency dynamics and the increase in live cattle imports from Canada.
    Beef variety meat exports to the Middle East – primarily liver exports to Egypt – increased nine percent to 88,845 metric tons (195.8 million pounds). Beef (non-variety meats) exports to the Middle East increased four percent to 6,956 metric tons (15.3 million pounds), driven by 48 percent growth in exports to the United Arab Emirates.
    Beef exports to Japan increased by 265 percent to 44,718 metric tons (98.6 million pounds) valued at nearly $230 million. The 20-month age limit applied to beef exports to Japan has restricted combined beef and variety meat exports to just 12 percent of 2003 export volume.
    Although market access was limited to a strict boneless-under-30-month protocol for an intermittent five months during 2007, Korea was the fourth largest market for beef exports with 24,240 metric tons (53.4 million pounds) valued at $117.3 million. Those commenting at the recent NCBA convention appeared optimistic changes in leadership and positive public opinion will results in a reopening of that market in the near future.
    Full reopening of Japan and Korea, according to NCBA Economist Gregg Doud, could make a significant difference for the American beef industry. “Japan and Korea fully open would add between $80 and $90 to the value of a fed steer. Not all that goes to the packer, not all goes to the feedlot and not all goes to the cow-calf guy, but $80 to $90 would go a long way towards healing everybody up.” Doud says the countries could mean an additional billion dollars each in exports. He says it’s enough to alter the low margins being predicted for the cow-calf sector in the year to come.
    “Your government understands the importance of opening markets for U.S. beef,” said Richard Crowder, chief ag negotiator for the U.S. Trade Representative at the recent NCBA meeting in Reno. “We also appreciate your sense of urgency at opening/reopening these markets. It’s not a switch we can turn on or off and it’s important the markets be opened on commercially viable terms that will provide consistent and sustainable trade.”
    Taiwan was the fifth largest market, with exports increasing six percent to 22,566 metric tons (49.7 million pounds) valued at $107 million.
    Daley noted that the weak U.S. dollar continues to enhance the competitiveness of U.S. exports while high global protein prices and strong demand provide potential for high quality U.S. beef and pork exports. “Access to foreign markets is critical for the United States to take advantage of these unprecedented global opportunities this year,” she stated.
    USMEF predicts the U.S. will see the largest growth in beef exports among its global competitors in the decade to come with an 88 percent increase from 2007. According to Daley, the bulk of the increase in U.S. exports is expected to come from the anticipated reopening of the beef market in South Korea and expanded access to the market in Japan.
    With five more plants approved for export to Russia early February, Doud also sees opportunity in that market. South America is presently sending a vast amount of beef to Russian, but Doud believes the U.S. will make inroads on that market. “Russia is the second largest beef importer in the world,” says Doud.
    He also sees opportunity in the European Union, now a net importer of beef. “For the first time,” he notes, “the U.S. will fill it’s import quota to the European Union this year.”
    Looking back to 2003 when a BSE infectected cow cost the U.S. numerous export markets, Doud says the U.S. beef industry is stronger as a result. Aside from Japan, Korea and China he says, “Everywhere else, we are well above where we were in 2003.”
    In a general sense Doud says, “There’s more demand for beef than we have beef in the world.”
    Here at home, the USDA forecasts a 4.9 pound (retail weight) per capita decline in U.S. beef consumption from 2007 to 2017, with a 1.3 pound per capita decline during 2008. These estimates reflect tight beef supplies going forward, and also indicate that a supply constraint was used in USDA’s export forecast.
    Jennifer Womack is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Greg Hanes of the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) describes Tokyo, Japan, the most populated city in the world, as developed and built up, with people all over the place.
“You can’t even see the horizon for the buildings. It’s like that for miles,” he says. “It’s interesting, because you see the differences from the U.S., but also the similarities, and one of those similarities is U.S. beef. What U.S. producers make is the best product in the world, and when people taste it, they appreciate it.”
USMEF is a non-profit organization that’s focused on adding value to and increasing exports of U.S. meat for the last 35 years. It’s network of international office staff is mostly composed of people who are native to their location and act as the eyes and ears of the area’s meat industry.
“From 2008 to 2018 meat consumption in the U.S. will go up five percent, and globally it will rise 15 percent,” comments Hanes. “That increase is almost 18.6 billion pounds, and just that increase is about three-quarters of what we produce right now. That’s a lot of beef to provide for the world.”
“The U.S. is a main supplier, and Brazil has traditionally been a main supplier but their supplies are going down. Australia is steady, but they can’t increase, either. The U.S. is on an upper trend again, and if we can get to where we were on pre-BSE levels we’ll be the preeminent supplier to the world,” says Hanes. “That’s the biggest concern right now – meat the supply for world demand.”
“Per capita consumption is also going up, and that’s something we need to take advantage of,” he adds.
Hanes calls 2009 the year of challenges, listing a global recession, access issues and negative consumer perceptions as the top barriers for U.S. beef.
“It was a tough year, but this year has started so much better, and 2010 is a year of opportunity for us,” he says. “While the U.S. really got nailed with the financial crisis, debt and the housing dilemma, Japan’s banks weren’t involved in the speculation, so their system was very strong and helped boost the rest of the world.”
He adds that Japanese consumers also don’t have the credit debt of U.S. consumers. “Even though their economies were hurt, they still have a lot in savings, so they’re watching their pennies but they’re still out there spending,” he says.
“New markets are open in Korea, and Taiwan has improved. In April Secretary Vilsack visited Japan and China with a new approach in negotiating trade, so things are starting to move up this year,” says Hanes. “In early June Walmart announced its first-quarter earnings, which were up 10 percent, and that’s a good sign. Of their earnings, only one percent came from domestic sales. The rest came internationally.”
“Before BSE, 2003 was a very good year, but not our best year. In 2008 we were steadily increasing before hitting a speed bump, and this year we expect to eclipse the 2008 numbers,” continues Hanes. “Already in the first three months of this year the value of products exported exceeds the total for 2003.”
Hanes says the unofficial weekly export statistics indicate that almost every market is up. “The only outlier is Mexico, because of their economy and issues with cheap chicken. But otherwise we’re already up 25 percent for the first half of the year.”
He notes a key thing to look at is that the U.S. does not export steaks and middle meats, or other meats commonly consumed here. “The products going overseas are the products we don’t want to eat, and that leads to carcass value maximization. We’re sending livers to Egypt, short ribs and chuck all over the place. Getting more value for these cuts brings real dollars back to the U.S. In a lot of cases the price we get internationally is more than double what we could get here.”
Just based on export value, in the first three months of 2010, those cuts added $125 per head, says Hanes. “In some cases one cut to one market has a huge impact. For example, short ribs shipped to Korea are hot, and that one cut adds $15 to every animal in the U.S.”
A key area of growth for U.S. exports is Asia. “Through the end of last month we were already up 42 percent in Asia, and the growth continues. Asia is such a key market, but it’s one of the areas with the biggest hurdles – consumer perception.”
USMEF has worked to reimage the whole industry with integrated marketing campaigns in Asia. “The key thing about these campaigns is that every country is so different, and they have to be very localized. We try to identify what the concerns are in the markets, who has the concerns, then create a synergetic strategy to target and address the concerns of consumers, and as their concerns change we adjust as well. That enables us to be tactful, and it helps us build the U.S. brand.”
Hanes says the key is to move everyone away from a negative attitude and to the tipping point of positive momentum growing toward acceptance and growth of U.S. beef.
“The Aussies are getting nervous, and we’re now on the offensive on these markets. Their reports say they’re losing a lot of value to strong competition from the U.S. Trust in the U.S. product is starting to really increase.”
Hanes notes the USMEF’s next target is Taiwan, which is now in a similar situation in reopening markets to bone-in beef that Korea experienced when it reopened markets to U.S. beef two years ago.
“The people of Taiwan felt their government was letting in unsafe products, and that gave U.S. beef a severe beating,” says Hanes. “This summer we’ll launch a campaign called ‘We Love U.S. Beef’ using characters with a very deep and positive meaning to the Chinese. From focus groups we know we already have a very positive image with that campaign, and we’re trying to get the images out to redo some of the negative public relations.”
“The focus of USMEF is to put U.S. beef on the world’s table, and that means putting Wyoming’s beef on the world’s table,” says Hanes. “You produce the best beef in the world, and that makes our job so much easier. When consumers in these markets try it, they can tell that it is the best product.”
Greg Hanes spoke to the early-June meeting of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association in Casper. Christy Hemken is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

With dismal wool prices and sheep producers going out of business in the late 2000s, Charles, Prince of Wales felt compelled to save England’s failing wool industry and launched an international campaign to educate consumers about the fiber.
    “I was shocked to discover that it often costs more to shear a sheep than the farmer gets paid for the wool,” said Prince Charles at the onset of the campaign. “Around the world, farmers were reducing the size of their flocks and giving up sheep herding all together.”
    “This powerless economic situation had been brought about because we were too regularly ignoring the natural product in favor of cheaper man-made alternatives,” he continued.
Solving the wool crisis
    With increasing concern, Prince Charles invited industry representatives – from woolgrowers to top-end designers and manufacturers – to his home in London to come up with a solution to the problem.
    “Everyone realized that wool was brilliant product, but consumers had forgotten its benefits,” explained Prince Charles. “The result is this campaign, which is helping to raise awareness about wool’s unique properties, which are, frankly, amazing.”
    Rita Kourlis-Samuelson, wool marketing director at the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI), added, “He met with some of the growers and they told him what was going on in the industry. They decided to begin a campaign to let people know about the attributes of wool and the importance of wool in fashion and interior design.”
    With John Thorley, a sheep producer and founder of the National Sheep Association in the United Kingdom, as chairman, the Campaign for Wool was officially launched in February 2010.
Campaign for Wool
    The Campaign for Wool is an international effort that focuses on educating consumers about the benefits of the fiber and is currently supported by over 70 companies and organizations in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, U.S., Japan, Spain, Denmark and France.
    As a multi-national, multi-sector and inclusive campaign, the effort strives to embrace every facet of the wool industry.
    “It promotes all wool for all wool growers,” adds Kourlis-Samuelson.
    Beginning in 2011, the U.K. introduced the Wool Modern exhibit in London, which highlighted the artistry of wool with a showcase of fashion, carpet and insulation design. The event coincided with International Wool Week, held in October.
    With a full schedule of events for this year, the Campaign for Wool will continue to expand worldwide.
    “This fall, they will come to the U.S., so they will have a program here,” says Kourlis-Samuelson, who also notes that the campaign will launch in France, Italy and China this year as well. “ASI has contributed for a few years now.”
    This year, ASI hosted the 81st annual International Wool Textile Organizational (IWTO) Congress on May 7 in New York City to bring together all segments of the wool industry to discuss opportunities for continued advancement.
    Nearly 250 industry representatives from 23 countries attended the event, and IWTO President Peter Ackroyd said, “It was pleasing to hear so many upbeat and optimistic presentations about the return of wool in floor coverings, furnishings and fashion.”
Why choose wool?
    “What is wonderful about wool is that it has so many natural properties, and it is important for consumers to know about those,” explains Kourlis-Samuelson. “A lot of non-sustainable fibers try to imitate one of these qualities, but it is impossible to imitate all of them.”
    As a natural and sustainable fiber, wool offers a number of benefits that make it desirable.
    “Wool is naturally fire resistant,” says Kourlis-Samuelson, explaining that it is frequently used in the military for uniforms. “It also absorbs dye and resists odor.”
    Additionally, wool is biodegradable, breathable, durable and easy to care for. With advancements in the textile industry, she adds that processed, washable wools are more readily available. She also notes that wool offers advantages for wearing year round because it is capable of reacting to changes in body temperature.
    “Wool is active to keep you warm when you’re cold, but releasing heat and moisture when you’re hot,” says Campaign for Wool’s website.
     The versatile fiber also is sustainable, which appeals to consumers and retailers today.
    “Right now, there is a big push for a lot of retailers to look for garments that are sustainable, renewable and natural,” says Kourlis-Samuelson. “Wool fits into that category.”
Current wool markets
    Last year, wool prices hit record highs, and Kourlis-Samuelson says that, although they have come down a little, demand is still strong.
    “In the late 1990s to early 2001, we had a lot of inventory that we had to get rid of,” she explains. “Now there is no inventory of wool, so demand is steady.”
    With a three-fold increase in wool prices since the campaign began, sheep farmers are now able to prosper and the Campaign for Wool has been successful. Efforts to promote and educate consumers about wool continue, and, the Campaign for Wool comments, “All we are saying is give fleece a chance.”
    This year, Wool Week begins Oct. 15. To learn more about the Campaign for Wool, visit Saige Albert is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..