Growing Popularity in Asia of Chilled, rather than Frozen, US Beef

(Bob Cervera) Growing in popularity across Asia, chilled US beef, rather than frozen, adds value as it is shipped direct from packing plants to foreign markets in containers kept near the freezing point. (Dan Halstrom) Any time you freeze something and thaw it, you’re breaking down the cells; you have more cooking loss, less water-holding capability. So the fact that it’s chilled, the image is of much higher quality beef. So a lot of these programs, not all, but a lot of them are centered around bringing in chilled to the Asian market. (Bob) Some cuts like short plates are not popular in the U.S. but readily accepted overseas, even bringing premiums as high as 15 dollars per head. (Halstrom) One of the cuisines they have is like a thin slice of a marinated short plate on a bed of rice into these bento boxes in Japan. It’s a real specialty item that’s targeted towards the convenient stores of Japan. Now the convenient stores are not all that big, but they’re high quality, and there’s 55 thousand of them in Japan. So if you add up 55 thousand of them, it’s a huge opportunity. (Bob) Convenience stores in Asia have high quality perishable sections with a freshness focus. In Japan, processors pack items into those quick-shopping stores several times daily. (Halstrom) So for the most part these bento boxes are being consumed the same day they’re packed – very, very high quality. So once again it’s a big contrast to what we think of as convenience stores here. (Bob) Breaking into foreign markets takes patience. After 40 years in Japan, the US Meat Export Federation is just getting to a time when it can reach out directly to consumers, which will drive retail demand. (Halstrom) To be involved with a consumer, as you know, is very expensive. There’s not unlimited funds. But the good news is, the closer you can get to the consumer, the more payback for the industry. The more margin there is for our industry. (Bob) I’m Bob Cervera.

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