DENVER – The US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) recently hosted a team of nine retail meat buyers from the Caribbean, an area that has developed into a very strong market for US beef and pork. Beef exports to the region totaled $103 million in 2010 – up 28% over 2009. Pork exports increased 19% to $92.6 million. Export value to the Caribbean over the past five years has increased by 75% for US beef and 90% for US pork.

Expanding US beef and pork’s presence beyond the high-end tourism and foodservice industries and into the retail meat case has been critical to this rapid growth. As the Caribbean region’s supermarket sector becomes more modern and sophisticated, buyers are looking for high-quality, fresh meat offerings that appeal to the local population. The goal of the retail buyers team’s visit was to capitalize on those opportunities for US beef and pork.

Every segment of US meat production was experienced by the buyers. They visited ranches, feedlots and beef and pork processing plants in Texas and Oklahoma. They also participated in a “Beef and Pork 101” course at West Texas A&M University and observed a cutting demonstration that familiarized them with newly developed cuts of beef and pork.

Vernon Persad, owner of Persad’s “D” Food King grocery stores in Trinidad and president of the 300-member Supermarkets’ Association of Trinidad and Tobago, said he was impressed with the care and dedication he observed at US livestock operations and with the quality products available from US processors. He plans to become a strong advocate for bringing more US beef and pork into Trinidad and Tobago, as a result of his visit.

Also participating were buyers from Aruba, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Curaçao, Dominica, Jamaica and the Turks and Caicos Islands.