Wisconsin Beef Council Explores Asian Markets

Fifteen beef industry leaders from 10 states, including Wisconsin, were in Seoul, South Korea, and Tokyo, Japan this May. There they studied market conditions and U.S. beef’s potential while witnessing and participating in U.S. beef promotions. Joe Meyer (Unity, Wis.) and Brady Klatt (Clinton, Wis.) represented Wisconsin Beef Council on the trip. In both markets, the weeklong tour included U.S. Embassy briefings from Agricultural Trade Office staff and market updates from the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) staff. The trip was organized by USMEF.

The team also met with USMEF exporter members, visited a research and development center, and saw an online wholesaler in Seoul. They also saw the head office of a sauce and seasoning business in Tokyo. The team witnessed and participated in marketing activities including a beef trade seminar for the foodservice sector, a consumer seminar in Tokyo, and several retail promotions for U.S. beef in both markets. Team members also participated in a livestreaming event for U.S. beef with an e-commerce company in Seoul.

“It was interesting to see how the beef we raise is exported and marketed by USMEF,” said Meyer. “I also learned that USMEF is able to leverage Beef Checkoff investments with USDA funds (from sources like market access and foreign market development programs) and in-market partnerships. For example, we participated in a cooking class for chefs that was partially funded by a propane company.”

According to Klatt, “sustainability is not defined or regarded in South Korea and Japan like it is here. They still have concerns about bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and traceability is important. When looking at the retail meat cases there, there is limited ground beef as compared to other beef cuts featured.”

“It was important for the group to see the Korean and Japanese markets for themselves,” John Hinners, USMEF senior vice president of industry relations said. “There is tremendous competition in these high-value markets and team members asked to see firsthand how the industry works to differentiate high-quality U.S. beef with consumers. Both markets still hold strong potential for U.S. beef, and the team was able to see how checkoff dollars are working to develop new and emerging opportunities.”

Korea and Japan were the top volume markets for U.S. beef exports in 2023. Japan has continued to experience challenges with exports due to the strong U.S. dollar. However, optimism is strong as it
relates to the foodservice sector driven by a rebound in tourism in both countries. In South Korea,
2022 was the first year that meat consumption exceeded rice; in fact, per capita consumption of
beef has increased from 20.9 pounds in 2000 to 32.6 pounds in 2023.