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For U.S. beef producers to be successful, they must maximize the value of each animal they raise. One of the ways of achieving this goal is through international sales. While the Wisconsin Beef Council celebrates Beef Month in July by showing consumers many great ways to enjoy beef, some beef cuts command a much better price outside this country’s borders. Exporting these items pays excellent dividends for Wisconsin cattle producers.
“Beef variety meats like tongue, liver and tripe have limited value in this country,” according to John Freitag, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Beef Council. “By expanding our marketing reach for these kinds of products, we’re helping build demand for the entire beef animal.”
In 2014, the U.S. beef industry set a new record for export value, shipping $7.13 billion worth of beef muscle cuts and variety meat across the globe – an increase of $1 billion over the previous year. Export value per head of fed cattle processed also set a new record of $300 – a figure that has more than doubled in the past five years.
Some of the best examples of adding value through beef exports occur in Japan, which recently reclaimed its position as the No. 1 value market for U.S. beef exports. Japan is easily the top destination for U.S. beef tongues, about 90 percent of which are consumed outside the United States. Japan’s purchases of U.S. tongue have surged since the age limit for U.S. cattle eligible for the Japanese market was raised from 21 months to 30 months in February 2013. Japan is also the leading destination for U.S. short plate, a forequarter cut that is exceptionally popular with Japan’s quick-service beef bowl restaurant chains.
U.S. short ribs are also a popular export item, with at least 60 percent shipped to Asian markets such as South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan. These same markets take the majority of U.S. rib fingers, skirts and hanging tenders, and they are leading destinations for U.S. chuck rolls and shoulder clods.
Mexico is the second-largest value market for U.S. beef exports, purchasing a high volume of end cuts such as goosenecks and other round cuts, as well as shoulder clods. These cuts are also popular export items for Central and South America.
In addition to beef tongue, exports of other beef variety meat items are a major driver of U.S. carcass value. The Middle East is the top destination for U.S. variety meat, driven primarily by Egypt’s imports of livers, kidneys and hearts. Mexico is also a major purchaser of variety meat, taking a wide range of items including tripe, lips, hearts, sweetbreads, and intestines. Heart and tripe are popular items in Peru, the top South American market for U.S. beef variety meat.
“Our cattle producers can take pride in knowing they are providing consumers across the globe with a safe and enjoyable product,” according to John Freitag. “At the same time, they’re taking control of their future and helping improve their own bottom line by investing in programs that help build demand for beef outside of our borders.”
Through programs managed by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), a contractor to the Beef Checkoff Program, U.S. beef is marketed in more than 80 countries through retail and restaurant promotions, trade shows and educational seminars demonstrating the positive attributes of U.S. beef for importers, distributors, restaurateurs and consumers.