DENVER — Despite difficult economic conditions, the Caribbean has been an outstanding market for U.S. beef and pork in 2009. U.S. beef exports are on pace with last year while pork exports have increased by about 25%.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation has been tailoring its marketing strategies in the region to help retailers and foodservice operators cope with difficult economic conditions resulting in large part from an uncertain level of tourist activity, said Elizabeth Wunderlich, Caribbean representative for the U.S.M.E.F. She added that under these circumstances, it is important for retailers to maximize the number of stock keeping units (s.k.u.s) they can derive from beef and pork inventories and for foodservice operators to have versatile cuts that can be used for a variety of menu items.

"The economic situation we’re in, we’re taking existing inventory, such as a N.Y. strip or ribeye, and showing new marketing ideas — how to get more s.k.u.s if you’re at the supermarket level or how to get more menu ideas from the same cut," Ms. Wunderlich said. "One of the trends you see is people don’t want to inventory a lot of products. They want it streamlined — to be lean and mean.

That’s really our strategy for 2010," she added. "Our seminars will be focusing on what I call ‘bail-out cuts’...cuts that can help you reduce your food costs, but still keep you in the high-quality meat category."

U.S.M.E.F. is also involved in a cooperative effort with the Texas Beef Council, U.S.M.E.F. is providing specialized training to Caribbean sales representatives so that they are better able to market alternative cuts of U.S. beef, Ms. Wunderlich said.

"We’re going to be teaching them how to be better salesmen," she added. "Most importantly, we’re going to be teaching them how to increase their comfort level with our products, especially products they don’t know. They pretty much know tenderloin, N.Y. strip and ribeye — but it’s the flat iron, flank, skirt steak, shoulder clod heart or chuck roll they may not be comfortable with."

If they’re not comfortable with it, they won’t sell it, she continued. "This helps them to be more successful, increase their sales and move inventory of some of their cuts that are beyond middle meats they can compete in because their competition may not be bringing those cuts in," she said.