DENVER – During a panel discussion this week at the 2009 International Livestock Congress in Denver, trade officials discussed the export opportunities for U.S. beef to European markets. Monty Brown, processing/retail consultant for the U.S. Meat Export Federation in Europe said that just like the U.S. domestic beef market, the sluggish economy is prompting European customers to "trade down" their beef-cut selections.

Now is not the time to reduce efforts to market U.S. beef in the European Union, he stressed. Beef production in that region is declining, so Europe is becoming more dependent on imports. What’s more, the EU is facing a serious beef deficit in the coming year, which could create significant opportunities for U.S. beef.

"Production in Europe at the moment is declining, essentially going down by about 1%, and they estimate this year the deficit will be 500,000 tonnes rising to only 600,000 tonnes in 2010. So this is going to give us some exporting opportunity," Mr. Brown said.

Despite the economic downturn, Mr. Brown says knowledgeable, European customers who are focused on quality will still respond well to U.S. beef. "U.S. beef is a quality product at the top end when it comes to pricing in Europe," Mr. Brown said. "What we need to do is get active with promotions to encourage more consumers within the European Union to buy the product. We know it eats well, we know it will sell well. We just have to get the pricing right."

To post your comments on this story, click here: meatpoultry@sosland.com.