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CATTLE TODAY

TAIWAN MARKET STILL EXPANDING AFTER RETURN OF U.S. BEEF

Just over a year has passed since Taiwan reopened its market to U.S. beef. In that time activities and efforts by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) have eased customer fears of consuming U.S. beef and worked to encourage consumers to try U.S. beef. The result is increasing demand in restaurants and supermarkets for U.S. beef products.

At the restaurant Mihan Honke in the Grand Formosa Regent Hotel in Taipei, guests have a few days left to enjoy a promotional “Ultimate U.S. Beef Sukiyaki” dinner for two. Guests can taste tender and juicy U.S. beef rib eye, fresh vegetables and homemade udon noodles cooked in a handcrafted sukiyaki sauce specially made for the meal.

Focusing on underutilized or value cuts, USMEF and the Noble family, which owns and operates many restaurants in Taiwan, launched a U.S. beef advertising campaign in two major magazines. The ads, featuring the USMEF and beef checkoff logos, run for three months, ending in April.

Alongside photos of U.S. beef short rib dishes, the ads say, “A short rib steak of USDA Choice grade is a luxury you too can afford.” The Noble family also talks about the feedgrain used in the United States and how it contributes to the distinguishable flavors of U.S. beef.

These are some of the many U.S. beef promotions Regent Hotel and Noble family restaurants have conducted in cooperation with USMEF to appeal to international travelers and local consumers.

According to USMEF-Taiwan, there could be up to 2,000 outlets serving Asian-style U.S. beef cuts in yakiniku, teppanyaki, sukiyaki and hot pot meals. U.S. beef boneless short ribs are a good profit maker for foodservice operators. And the short ribs can be prepared in both dry and wet cooking styles or served as premium steak, top-end yakiniku, shabu shabu and sukiyaki.

“There are no close substitutes or competitors to U.S. boneless short ribs since most grain-fed boneless and bone-in short ribs from Australia are being sold to Korea and Japan, and grass fed short ribs are too tough for dry cooking,” said USMEF Taiwan Director Davis Wu.

USMEF promotions encourage consumers to enjoy U.S. beef while dining at high-end steak houses or casual dining establishments. This featuring of U.S. beef by key restaurants also prompts product purchases in supermarkets by consumers interested in preparing the same type of meals at home.

“Many chain supermarkets and wholesale stores featured U.S. beef as main promotion product for the Chinese New Year,” said Wu. “This willingness to promote U.S. beef shows that consumers are no longer worried about U.S. beef safety.”

USMEF cooperated with Sinon Supermarket, the largest supermarket chain in central Taiwan with 32 stores, to conduct a U.S. beef promotion activity in conjunction with the Chinese New Year. Sales volume of U.S. beef increased by 20 percent and the cuts included in the promotion were expanded from five to eight to meet consumer demand.

Costco's sales of U.S. beef at its flagship store in Neihu Taipei are one of the highest per store of any retail chain in Asia. Huge 4 ½-pound retail packs of chilled U.S. beef boneless short ribs fly off the shelves at low retail prices (US $5.30 per pound).

Wu also notes in 2006 chilled U.S. beef had 48 percent of retail market share in Taiwan, indicating optimism for future progress of U.S. beef in the retail sector. Taiwan was the fourth largest market for U.S. beef and beef variety meat in 2006. The United States exported 21,409 metric tons valued at $101.3 million.

The availability of high quality U.S. beef at low prices provides a profitable option for a range of foodservice outlets. This has driven a stable demand for U.S. beef that is relatively widespread in its reach.

Traders think U.S. beef volume could be impacted by U.S. beef sales to South Korea, which would drive up prices for Asian-style U.S. beef cuts. Meanwhile, USMEF is building strong relationships with foodservice operators and retailers to convince consumers that the unique taste of U.S. beef will remain a value even if prices do rise.

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.

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