U.S. pork exports to Central America set another new record in 2019 at around $230 million. Of the top 20 international destinations for U.S. pork, six are in Central America (Honduras, Guatemala, Panama, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Nicaragua). Panama and Costa Rica were the growth pacesetters in 2019, but exports also increased significantly to mainstay markets Honduras and Guatemala.
Lucia Ruano, U.S. Meat Export Federation representative in the region, says consumer education has helped U.S. pork become increasingly popular as a center-of-the-plate protein.
"In the Central American market, the majority of the pork imports we have there is raw material used for processing products, but we have been doing a lot of education because people still think that is bad for your health, that it is too fatty, too greasy, and they have been learning, with all the education that we have been doing, that it can be another option as the center-of-the-plate meat," Ruano says. "We have been promoting the loin, the tenderloin, ribeye, rib loin, the porterhouse, all of these different cuts, so people are changing their thinking, they're changing their mind. They are eating more U.S. pork. It's a protein that is available and it has a good price."
USMEF educational efforts also include cutting and cooking demonstrations, which helps consumers properly prepare U.S. pork and avoid overcooking it.
"We're teaching our customers, the staff of our distributors, how to cook pork, and we have had several cutting and cooking seminars. We bring a primal cart, we cut it, we cook it, they taste it, and they also learn all the characteristics and all the attributes that U.S. pork has," Ruano says. "We are also teaching people about the nutritional facts of pork in the different activities that we are doing, not only during the educational seminars, but also the promotions we are doing in other regions."