By U.S. Meat Export Federation Staff
The U.S. Meat Export Federation recently hosted representatives from key Korean e-commerce companies to educate them on the safety and versatility of U.S. pork. The team received meat handling and processing training at the University of Wisconsin toured a Johnsonville Sausage plant and visited USMEF’s Denver headquarters — activities funded by the USDA Market Access Program and the Pork Checkoff.
For the U.S. pork industry, having the team experience the steps required to produce quality meat products is invaluable, according to Jihae Yang, USMEF director in South Korea.
“E-commerce is growing rapidly in Korea and as more Koreans order groceries with their mobile devices, multiple e-commerce platforms are competing to release their own fresh food brands on their websites,” explains Yang. “However, e-commerce sales of products like U.S. meat are in an early stage, as most e-commerce platforms — including TV shopping networks — have been reluctant to aggressively feature U.S. meat. But U.S. products have begun to penetrate the e-commerce sector with more competitive pricing, and the interest in U.S. pork is growing significantly.”
The group’s first stop in the United States was for an educational program conducted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Animal Sciences. Faculty members Jeff Sindelar and Andy Milkowski presented information on basic meat science, proper freezing and defrosting methods and trends in U.S. meat processing.
A subsequent visit to a Johnsonville Sausage processing plant was a great opportunity to highlight not only U.S. processed pork items — which are rapidly gaining popularity in the Korean market — but also the superior quality and safety of U.S. pork as a raw material.
“Because Johnsonville Sausage has been so successful in the Korean e-commerce sector, participants were curious how U.S. processed pork items are produced, and they were pleased with what they saw,” says Yang. “For example, one member of the team, Sangok Lee, a fresh food merchandiser who has visited pork processing plants in Korea, said he was very impressed with the quality of U.S. pork used in processed products.”
The group later traveled to Colorado, where it visited USMEF headquarters in Denver. Team members were given an overview of the U.S. red meat industry by USMEF Director of Market Access and Export Services Travis Arp. Jessica Spreitzer, the USMEF trade analyst, presented an update on U.S. red meat production, including export trade statistics and forecasts.
Thanks to strong growth in pork consumption and rapidly increasing demand for processed pork products and home meal replacement items, 2017 has been a solid year for U.S. pork exports to South Korea. Through August, exports totaled 111,271 metric tons, a year-over-year increase of 27%, while the value of these exports climbed 32% to $305 million.
Most U.S. pork cuts enter Korea duty-free under the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, but the market is highly competitive with the United States, the European Union, Chile, Canada and Mexico all battling for market share. Chile was the first pork supplier to have a free trade agreement with Korea, so all Chilean pork now enters Korea duty-free. Duties on nearly all products from the EU have also been eliminated through its free trade agreement with Korea, which entered into force in 2011. The Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement took effect at the beginning of 2015, and Korea’s duties on most imports of Canadian pork will be eliminated by 2019.