CBB Op-Ed: Havens: Exports Necessary to Continue Growing Market for U.S. Beef

By Ross Havens, Wiota, Iowa
Cattlemen’s Beef Board Member and Co-Chair, International Marketing Committee
There was a time, not so long ago, when I didn’t really grasp the importance of beef exports on the entire beef industry here in the United States. Like some producers, I thought we should sell our beef here in the U.S.
However, getting appointed to the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) in 2020 and co-chairing its International Marketing Committee has really opened my eyes. Now, I can clearly see how much the export market adds to the value of U.S. beef by leveraging its unique attributes. By expanding U.S. beef demand and sales internationally, the Beef Checkoff is helping promote economic growth and support producers’ bottom lines.
No matter how you look at it, international trade is a vital aspect of America’s cattle industry. With 95 percent of the global population and 80 percent of global buying power located outside U.S. borders, we must market our beef in other countries if we’re going to increase beef sales worldwide. And, as U.S. beef exports grow, global recognition and worldwide consumer demand for the quality beef we provide also increase.
The Beef Checkoff’s foreign marketing program is carried out by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). USMEF works to develop international markets for U.S. beef through programs aimed at expanding market penetration, gaining access to new markets, improving global consumer perceptions and building trust in U.S. beef.
Using a boots-on-the-ground approach, USMEF promotes beef in more than 80 countries with 17 international representatives and offices worldwide. As locals, these 17 representatives know and understand their marketplaces and the consumer trends in their regions. They help execute promotional campaigns and initiatives, helping to differentiate U.S. beef based on market maturity, income levels and demographics to drive demand for the entire carcass.
Here’s a question: when was the last time you enjoyed beef tongue, lips, liver, heart, kidney, stomach or intestine? While variety meats are often not as popular with Americans, international consumers are eager to get their hands on these cuts and cook delicacies unique to their cultures. Exporting variety meats to other countries adds a significant amount of value per carcass.
The U.S. also exports primal cuts like chuck, rib, loin, round, brisket, short plate and flank to countries that are willing to pay higher prices for our quality beef. International markets use this beef to create many of the recipes you cook at home, as well as the exotic dishes you may enjoy when you venture to ethnic restaurants, like carne asada, beef rouladen, hot pot, birria, braised short ribs and Mongolian beef.
Market competition is fierce, but Checkoff-funded efforts work to educate foreign countries that U.S. beef is the premium choice. And those efforts are working. More and more consumers worldwide want U.S. beef, which is evident with record-breaking growth throughout 2021 and 2022. U.S. beef exports have been on a red-hot pace, topping $1 billion for the fifth time this year in June. For the first half of 2022, beef exports increased 6% from a year ago to 743,904 mt, valued at $6.19 billion (up 33%). Much of this growth comes from mainstay markets such as South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, but demand is also very strong in China/Hong Kong and key Latin American markets, while exports to the Middle East have also rebounded since the pandemic.
With programs like these in place, the Beef Checkoff is introducing high-quality beef to consumers who may never have enjoyed it before but will now continue to request it from their grocers and restaurants. As a beef producer myself, I strongly believe that Checkoff-funded programs will continue to grow U.S. beef’s global demand and consumers’ desire for a superior eating experience. CBB leadership will do what it takes to continue adding value to U.S. beef and benefit all stakeholders who pay into the Beef Checkoff.
The Beef Checkoff Program was established as part of the 1985 Farm Bill. The Checkoff assesses $1 per head on the sale of live domestic and imported cattle, in addition to a comparable assessment on imported beef and beef products. States may retain up to 50 cents on the dollar and forward the other 50 cents per head to the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board, which administers the national Checkoff program, subject to USDA approval.