DENVER — Keith Miller, U.S. Meat Export Federation vice chairman, recently returned from Asia, where he examined market conditions for U.S. beef and pork in China, South Korea and Japan.
A farmer-stockman from Great Bend, Kan., Mr. Miller said consumer attitudes toward U.S. beef appear to be improving in Korea. This is in contrast to the business climate he saw earlier this year, when U.S. beef was still saddled with negative publicity from protests that marked the reopening of the market, leading consumers to show a strong preference for Australian beef, according to the U.S.M.E.F.
"I was in Seoul in March and we went to the marketplace," he said. "When consumers were doing their shopping, they would walk right past the U.S. product and go straight to the Aussie product. And the U.S. product at that time was cheaper than the Aussie product. But at the time, they just didn’t want anything to do with American beef. That has changed between then and now. When I was in the marketplace this past week, we could see a lot of people going in and buying our product and walking right past the Aussie product."
The improvement in consumer demand is helping the beef industry work through backlogged inventories of U.S. beef, and this is revitalizing interest from importers and distributors, Mr. Miller said.
"When I was there this spring, we had a lot of product in cold storage waiting to get sold and they just couldn’t get it moved," he said. "That (total) has been cut almost in half since I was there in March. The packers are saying they’re starting to ship a lot more product there. You can tell the consumer is beginning to want our product again and they are buying quite a bit of it now. We have a quality product that’s safe and it has good taste and flavor because it’s grain fed. The Aussie product, for the most part, is grass fed and it’s just is not as tender and doesn’t have the quality and taste that (U.S. beef has)."