USMEF strategic planning conference opens
The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) annual Strategic Planning Conference opened last Tuesday with an inside look at the key Mexican export market from an executive with H-E-B Grocery in Monterrey, Mexico, an address from USMEF Chairman Steve Isaf, and insights from economist and futurist Dr. Jay Lehr.
Isaf, who is concluding his year as USMEF chairman at this week’s meeting, emphasized that the U.S. red meat industry needs to “walk in the shoes of our customers” to better understand what those buyers value. He noted that the greatest opportunity for American red meat exports is in Asia, which he said accounts for 38 percent of the world’s total number of households with $10,000 or more of disposable income versus 17 percent in the United States.
The USMEF chairman also stated that the wise use of technology can help give the United States an advantage in the international marketplace by improving productivity in a world where more food is needed to feed a growing population.
Richard Wortham, executive vice president of the Texas Beef Council (TBC), welcomed the more than 170 USMEF members in attendance at the meeting, noting that TBC has been a member of USMEF since 1991 and has supported the organization with more than $24 million in funding over the past 22 years.
“When Texas Beef Council first ventured into international marketing, our board made it clear that this is an area that we just can’t jump into and then jump out of,” said Wortham. “If we’re going to be involved, we need to be in it for the long haul. Back in 1991 we could not even imagine the possibilities that lay before our industry. But our commitment is based on trust and on relationships. It’s based on the vision that we all have to sell more product into the global market.”
Wortham encouraged the USMEF members in attendance to “be bold” over the coming 20 years and take U.S. red meat “to where it’s never been.”
Jesus Velazco, director of fresh meat and perishables for H-E-B Grocery, explained the retail chain’s approach to differentiating itself from its competitors by focusing on training and development of staff and an emphasis on high-quality products including U.S. beef cuts, led by round meat, middle meats and U.S. pork hams, along with loins and ribs.
H-E-B recently collaborated with several U.S. partners including Certified Angus Beef, in the planning and execution of the world’s largest barbecue event, feeding more than 45,000 people in only two hours. H-E-B also has cooperated on a number of programs with USMEF to generate consumer awareness and maintain a high profile for U.S. red meat products.
The USMEF chairman also stated that the wise use of technology can help give the U.S. an advantage in the international marketplace by improving productivity in a world where more food is needed to feed a growing population. The importance of the international marketplace for U.S. beef and pork was highlighted in a different fashion by economist and futurist Dr. Jay Lehr, who noted that average incomes in the Third World have risen roughly 65 percent in recent years, increasing the ability of consumers there to purchase higher value foods like American red meats. He added that China will be the United States’ most prolific trading partner in years ahead.
The meeting closed with a reception that provided members with a delicious hands-on introduction to how U.S. beef, pork and lamb are marketed internationally. USMEF representatives from Singapore, Mexico and the Caribbean prepared dishes featuring the three red meats as they would be served in those regions, ranging from a pork loin served with a Mexican green mole sauce to a beef salad from Singapore and a Caribbean lamb slider.
The three-day meeting continued with a panel discussion on the impact of trade policy on exports followed by meetings of US- MEF’s beef, pork, feedgrain/ oilseed and exporter committees. The meeting concluded last Thursday with a business session and election of officers for the coming year. — WLJ