CENTENNIAL, Colo. – Although the model the United States has established to promote US beef exports internationally has been successful and has spawned a growing replication of the model, it is also creating vigorous competition for overseas red-meat customers.

The infrastructure that the US red meat industry, through the US Meat Export Federation, which contracts to manage foreign marketing programs for the beef checkoff in key markets, has given a face to the US beef industry and facilitated developing relationships with importers, retailers, foodservice industry and government officials to grow US beef exports.

“Those lessons have not gone unnoticed by our international competitors, who are making similar moves to establish permanent offices in key markets – like Japan – to recapture some of the high-margin customers the United States has taken from them over the years,” said Greg Hanes, USMEF assistant vice president, international marketing and programs.

US producers realized a return of approximately $170 in October per head of fed slaughter, with high-value markets like Japan and Korea accounting for a significant amount of that return.

Australia has had the highest profile of US competitors in key Asian markets through its beef and lamb promotional organization, Meat and Livestock Australia. In Japan, MLA has aggressively promoted its “Clean and Safe” image, developing programs for health professionals including doctors and nutritionists as well as chefs, foodservice operators and retailers. Last year, MLA introduced a new theme: “Traceability you can trust,” to emphasize a traceability program that has strong appeal to Japanese consumers.

Canada’s Canadian Beef Export Federation has conducted a concerted effort to expand its market access and its footprint in the Asian region. Late in 2009, it concluded negotiations with Hong Kong on resuming full-market access for Canadian beef exports, which CBEF estimated could result in an increase of $26 million per year in Canadian beef exports to that country.

"The Safe Choice" is the theme that the Mexico Beef Exporters Association has adopted for its promotional campaign in South Korea. In its press statements, the MBEA director declares: “the difference between Mexican beef and the ones from its northern neighbors is that we do not have BSE or mad cow outbreaks.”

New Zealand is the No. 3 beef exporter to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan behind Australia and the US, and one of the top exporters to Hong Kong. Exports are critical to New Zealand – as they are to Australia – as it exports about 80% of the beef it produces.

“While US beef exports to targeted countries, including Japan and Korea, continue to rebound, the greatest opportunities come from expanded access [including raising age limits for beef to Japan and gaining access to China] and concluding free-trade agreements [starting with South Korea] that will ease import duties on US beef,” Hanes said.