DENVER – US pork exports are off to a strong start in 2011, growing by double digits over 2010. But there are often cuts that need more marketing emphasis overseas and one of these is the pork shoulder butt.

It is a tender, flavorful and affordable cut that may not be reaching its full potential in many overseas export markets. A global initiative by the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) is working to change that by working with foreign buyers on new ways to promote and merchandise this often-underutilized cut.

“The pork butt is one of those cuts that is one of the most tender, flavorful and versatile cuts,” said Greg Hanes, USMEF assistant vice president for international marketing. “And in most markets, it’s still one of those underutilized cuts that hasn’t been getting as much usage as some of the other items. So, we have taken the global initiative to go out and work with all of he different offices and try to promote the pork butt this year, build more demand and add more value to US producers.”

The initiative extends to neighboring markets such as Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. But Hanes says Asian markets probably offer the most growth potential.

“In the markets that use steak items, they call it block pork where they may boil it, cook it with different sauces and flavors or use for grilling, being able to take this item, which is so versatile and combine it with those different cooking styles and different flavors within each of the markets offers a lot of potential,” he says. “Japan, South Korea and Southeast Asia are all areas where we are working with the different target groups. We have some activities with the importers and distributors and sales competitions. We’re also working with retailers to show them how they can merchandise this and show it differently. And we’re working with chefs at restaurants to develop new menu ideas and cooking styles that they can also feature on their menus.”