CENTENNIAL, CO (CBB) — Chuck Coffey, chairman, and Jared Brackett, vice chairman, of the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion & Research Board (CBB) recently traveled to Taiwan and Japan as part of a U.S. contingent exploring opportunities for U.S. beef in those countries. The week-long trip took place May 4-May 11, 2019.
“Taiwan and Japan are in prime position for further market development,” said Coffey, a fifth-generation rancher from Davis, Oklahoma. “While these Asian markets share many similarities, their challenges and opportunities are actually quite different. Taking this trip gave us the chance to immerse ourselves in their culture and gain a better understanding of the many ways we can work to increase U.S. beef consumption in these countries.”’
The Beef Leadership team’s first stop was Taipei, Taiwan where they attended a Taiwanese market briefing with the United States Meat Export Federation (USMEF), a subcontractor to the Beef Checkoff. At that briefing, attendees learned various facts about the Taiwanese market, including the fact that current beef consumption per person in that country of 23.6 million is quote “small” as compared with pork or poultry.
“Although their beef consumption is relatively low as compared to other meats, the Taiwanese can still only produce a tiny percentage of the beef they consume,” said Brackett, a fifth-generation cow-calf stocker from Filer, Idaho. “Obviously, Taiwan needs to import a lot of beef, not just to meet their currently small consumption rate, but to meet growing demand for beef throughout the country.”
The leadership team wrapped up their time in Taiwan by visiting gourmet meat shops, restaurants, warehouse stores, convenience stores, indoor/outdoor markets and steakhouses to see what kinds of beef are being sold to consumers through those channels.
“During our time in Taiwan, we found that there are many ways that we can encourage additional U.S. beef imports,” Coffey said. “We need to encourage the Taiwanese to incorporate beef into cultural food items like dumplings traditionally cooked with pork and poultry. Grass-fed beef also presents an opportunity, and we need to find ways to improve beef marketing overall. We have opportunities to integrate U.S. beef cuts into ready-to-eat options at convenience stores there, too.”
On May 8, the contingent traveled to Tokyo, Japan. There, Coffey, Brackett and others from the group started off their trip with a Japanese market briefing at the local USMEF office where they learned numerous facts about the country’s meat consumption.
“While Japan has always consumed large amounts of seafood, higher prices are causing seafood consumption to decline,” Brackett said. “Beef has an opportunity to fill that void, and we know that the Japanese prefer the taste and leanness of U.S. beef over beef from other countries like Australia and New Zealand. We need to find ways to take advantage of that preference while adding value to those cuts that the Japanese prefer but aren’t as popular stateside.”
Other interesting market facts include a growing preference among younger Japanese for beef over pork and seafood. Furthermore, the Japanese government is recommending that older citizens eat significantly more protein. Currently, the average Japanese person’s diet consists of primarily of rice, vegetables and fruit.
The leadership team also attended an eye-opening consumer event in Japan where the USMEF staff there worked with a local cooking celebrity, Chef Rika Yukimasa, on an American Beef Master program. This program included an American beef-cutting demonstration and integration of certain beef cuts into different dishes, including roast beef salad and roast beef sushi rolls. Yukimasa is one of several cooking instructors with which the USMEF works who have loyal social media followings and will promote beef to more than 3,000 cooking students over the next year.
The rest of the team’s time in Japan also included a visit to the U.S. Embassy to learn more about the current market status of U.S. agricultural products in that country. The group also visited retail stores to view U.S. beef products on display and learn how they’re marketed to Japanese consumers. A trip to the Tokyo Meat Market, a government-owned beef and pork slaughter plant, revealed the plant’s high daily capacity for processing beef cattle and hogs. A food retailer beef promotion event, with a focus on new U.S. beef menu options and ways to promote U.S. beef, was another highlight. U.S. beef producers shared their farming and cattle-raising practices with the group.
“We also attended a consumer direct event at a rooftop grilling park,” Brackett added. “At this event, the USMEF and a local grilling club are elevating grilling as not just a hobby, but a way to incorporate thicker cuts of beef into the Japanese diet. We learned that they are making an impact, as in just one year’s time, the amount of grocery store space dedicated to thicker cuts has exponentially increased.”
Coffey, Brackett and the rest of the leadership team on the Asian trip found their visits to Taiwan and Japan extremely worthwhile, helping them gain valuable, in-person insight into what makes these markets tick. The trip also revealed concerns about tariff and non-tariff trade barriers, as well as the need for improved product traceability.
“The market strategies we use to continue promoting U.S. beef in these two countries will likely be very different,” Coffey said. “Taiwan is 15 years behind Japan in overall market development, which requires beef promoters to spend more time with importers and other businesses. In Japan, there’s more emphasis on consumer and influencer marketing. We’re taking what we learned on this trip back to the U.S. and disseminating it to the producers we serve, as well as others in the beef industry. Armed with this knowledge, we can better tailor our approach to selling U.S. beef in these Asian markets and set ourselves up for even greater success in the years ahead.”
For more information about the Beef Checkoff and its programs, including promotion, research, foreign marketing, industry information, consumer information and safety, visit www.beefboard.org.