S. Korea Costco stores' move to all US beef a positive for exporters

by Joel Crews
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South Korea 
Daryl Strohbehn and Dave Rueber, Iowa beef producers, visit Costco in South Korea as Costco transitions to 100% US beef in stores.
 

AMES, Iowa – On the heels of two Costco stores in South Korea beginning the transition to sourcing chilled beef from US sources, with the remaining 11 to make a similar shift from Australian beef to US imports, officials from the Iowa Beef Industry Council (IBIC) were part of a trade mission to get a closer look at the supply chain in South Korea. The US Meat Export Federation’s (USMEF’s) Spring Seminar drew more than 200 representatives to make the Feb. 11-18 trip, which also included members of the Iowa Pork Producers Association and representatives from the beef-processing segment and pork exporting officials from the US.

USMEF officials coordinated tours of the processing plant and cold storage facility at Haesung Provision and Kyunwoo Foods, followed by a visit to a Costco warehouse in Kwangmyung. The recent resumption of red meat exports to South Korea was a windfall for USMEF and its members and the decision by Costco, the region’s largest importer, to convert the remaining 11 stores to selling US beef exclusively signals more positive trade relations moving forward.

“The retail market is vital for US beef. Costco’s announcement to move from 17 percent to 100 percent US beef in their stores is exciting for cattle producers,” said Dave Rueber, an IBIC member and Iowa beef producer who was part of the mission. “USMEF has been working on this for 13 years. This will result in a 15,000 metric ton increase in beef purchases this year.”

Expectations of record exports of chilled beef to South Korea are based on the momentum realized in 2016, when beef exports jumped 31 percent in value (to $1.059 billion) and 42 percent in weight (to 179,280 metric tons).

Knowing South Korea is one of the most social media-savvy cultures in the world, USMEF invited well-known bloggers and foodservice professionals to network with attendees in addition to hosting a cookbook launch, which focuses on US meats.

“As beef producers, we cannot become complacent, we must continue to focus on building long-term beef demand and being aware of future opportunities,” said Daryl Strohbehn, another Iowa beef producer who made the trip. “As an industry, we have to continue listening to what our consumers want, including our overseas customers.” 

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