CENTENNIAL, COLO. – Two influential bloggers, a meat buyer for a major Korean retailer and five winners of a contest held in cooperation with the retailer made up a delegation from South Korea that recently took a checkoff-sponsored beef-industry tour in California. The tour included a visit to the ranching operation at Yolo Land and Cattle Company near Woodland, Calif., and an evening of culinary education in California wine country.

Bloggers carry great influence with Korean consumers. The two “power bloggers” who were on the tour are widely read by Korean consumers, and their coverage of the U.S. tour will greatly enhance its impact and provide very positive publicity for U.S. beef. On a typical day, one of these blogger’s sites will be visited by up to 20,000 people.

The five contest winners qualified for the tour by purchasing U.S. beef from Korea’s E-Mart stores in a promotion held earlier this year. They were chosen from more than 4,000 consumers who entered the contest and made a qualifying purchase. The contest began Jan. 14, one day after E-Mart began featuring U.S. beef items in their main page advertisements.

“E-mart is the largest retailer in Korea and we had great success working with them on this promotion,” said Min Park, U.S. Meat Export Federation Korea senior public relations manager. “Customers were very excited to have a chance to visit the U.S. and learn more about its beef production system, so the contest gave E-Mart exactly the kind of momentum it needed to aggressively market U.S. beef.”

At the Yolo Land and Cattle Company ranch, the team got a first-hand look at an award-winning Black Angus operation that produces both purebred seedstock and a commercial cattle herd. Rancher Casey Stone led the group across much of the operation’s diverse landscape and explained many key aspects of the ranch’s success – including its cattle-handling methods and marketing strategies, rotational grazing system, vegetation management plan and habitat preservation practices. Mr. Stone prepared a ribeye steak lunch for the group and answered questions about managing a successful cattle operation. Yolo Land and Cattle Company is widely recognized for its conservation practices and commitment to the environment.

Before the ranch tour, the consumer team visited Ramekins Culinary School in Sonoma, Calif. Chef Seth Thornton led the group in a hands-on cooking exercise in which they prepared a four-course meal that included a seared beef tenderloin appetizer and a main course of stuffed roasted flank steak.

The group concluded its U.S. tour in San Francisco, visiting several retail outlets and restaurants to observe the domestic merchandising and marketing of U.S. beef.

The tour, funded with support from the Beef Checkoff Program, is an extension of the U.S. beef industry’s “To Trust” campaign, which has greatly improved the image of U.S. beef in Korea and helped regain consumer interest and confidence.

Ms. Park said while some lingering doubts and misperceptions about U.S. beef remain, the industry has made great strides in this market in recent months. Recent export data show the U.S. share of Korea’s imported beef market has risen above 33% – more than double the market share from two years ago — with the U.S. gaining significant ground on market share leader Australia.