Beef products like livers and kidneys are not items Americans typically eat. However, they are extremely popular in Middle Eastern countries, such as Egypt. The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) continues to expand and build demand for these items with promotional campaigns and consistent contact with importers.
A USMEF merchandising campaign held last month in Egypt increased awareness that U.S. beef livers are a high quality, safe product. Some 80 merchandisers in wholesale and wet markets and 30 restaurants and street vendors participated in the campaign, encouraging Egyptians to try U.S. beef products.
USMEF focused on the most popular wet markets and major wholesalers who purchase beef livers from importers and distribute them to smaller wholesale outlets. Point-of-sale posters and displays along with U.S. beef recipes helped attract customer attention to the U.S. beef product.
Traders offered a complimentary supply of U.S. beef livers to traditional Egyptian restaurants that were hesitant to use U.S. beef livers. This has already led to U.S. beef liver purchases by many of these restaurants.
Sales of U.S. beef livers increased dramatically in the wholesale wet markets during and following the USMEF promotional activities. Customers asked for U.S. beef livers and were fully aware of the difference in taste and quality of U.S. beef compared to competitors.
High quality U.S. beef cuts also are finding success in fine dining restaurants, edging out competitor products from Argentina and other South American countries. USMEF has worked successfully with hotels, such as Marriott, and restaurants in Cairo to promote high quality U.S. beef since it returned to the market in September 2005.
Last May, Egypt changed shelf-life requirements for hearts and kidneys from four months to seven months. Egypt also removed requirements that a product had to reach the country with 50 percent of its shelf life remaining and that product had to be shipped within two months of production.
This was partially due to an 18-month research project by USMEF and Colorado State University. The research determined there were harmless amounts of protein degradation, lipid oxidation and overall rancidity of frozen storage of livers, hearts and kidneys stored up to 320 days – or almost 10 months.
The research team presented the study and results to Egyptian government officials last November and received positive results. Now, U.S. beef producers and processors are seeing encouraging results as well.
A managing director of an Egyptian catering company said his company imported between 10 to 15 metric tons (mt) of U.S. beef kidneys when the shelf life period was four months. However, now the shelf life requirement is seven months, the company increased U.S. beef kidney imports to 100 mt per month. The kidneys are distributed to popular restaurants and cold stores located in the wet markets.
USMEF reports seeing the same type of increases with at least five other companies and many companies are starting to place new orders to import U.S. beef kidneys.
USMEF aims to push sales of U.S. beef even higher. Through August, U.S. beef and beef variety meat exports to Egypt were 48,671 metric tons (mt) valued at $58.8 million. This exceeds the 2003 year-end totals of 30,915 mt and $29.9 million.
The U.S. Meat Export Federation is the trade association responsible for developing international markets for the U.S. red meat industry and is funded by USDA, exporting companies, and the beef, pork, lamb, corn, sorghum and soybean checkoff programs.