US pork booming in Mexico with room to grow

by Bryan Salvage
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DENVER – In 2009, US pork exports to Mexico reached an all-time high and they are running well ahead of that record pace in 2010. Through July, pork exports to Mexico are up 8% in volume and an impressive 30% in value, topping $560 million in just the first seven months of the year.

Dan Halstrom, senior vice president for marketing and communications with the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF), emphasizes there is still room for further growth, if the US industry remains innovative and is successful in differentiating the high level of quality and safety of its products.

“We’re constantly working with our USMEF team in Mexico on new approaches, new ideas, new segments and new products,” he said. “We spent a lot of time this week talking about new products in both beef and pork in the Latin American market. The status quo is not going to work. We’re working on always trying to stay ahead of the curve.

“Aside from having a good taste experience with US grain-fed pork, there’s also a very strong belief in the food safety of US pork,” he added. “It’s safe and a good eating experience. We had very good results in Mexico the last couple of years, but there’s additional room for growth. There are some smaller, middle-tier segments that we’re now focused on that the US hasn’t been as strong on in the past.”

In the retail sector, Mexico does not require country-of-origin labeling. But Halstrom said it still could be a useful tool for differentiating high-quality US pork products. “There is no COOL requirement of any sort in Mexico,” he iterated. “The tendency is ‘pork is pork and beef is beef.’ That being said, there are some real opportunities with some retails like Walmart, Costco and others. Even though there are no COOL requirements, it’s still a very good marketing tool we can use down in Mexico.”
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