Daryl Strohbehn and Dave Rueber, Iowa beef producers, visit Costco in South Korea as Costco transitions to 100% U.S. beef in stores.
Daryl Strohbehn and Dave Rueber, Iowa beef producers, visit Costco in South Korea as Costco transitions to 100% U.S. beef in stores.

The Iowa Beef Industry Council (IBIC) recently embarked on an Iowa trade mission to South Korea on February 11-18, 2017. The beef and pork schedule was coordinated through the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF). The projected expansion of U.S. chilled beef exports to South Korea is set for record levels. In 2016, U.S. beef exports grew by 31% in dollars received and 42% in total shipment weights. In total, 179,280 metric tons valued at $1.059 billion were exported to South Korea. The growing middle class of Korea has a demand for beef, especially beef short ribs for their Korean BBQ style meals.

Daryl Strohbehn, Boone, and Dave Rueber, Luxemberg, Iowa beef producers and members of the IBIC board of directors, attended the meat trade mission on behalf of the beef checkoff. The trip began with a tour of the cold storage and processing plant at Kyunwoo Foods and Haesung Provision in South Korea to better understand the Korean market.

The next phase of the trade mission was to the Costco Kwangmyung warehouse. Costco, the largest importer in the region, recently transitioned two of their thirteen warehouses from Australian beef to 100 percent U.S. chilled beef. The remaining eleven warehouses will be converted during May. The regaining of the Korean imported chilled beef market is a milestone for U.S. beef producers.

“The retail market is vital for U.S. beef. Costco’s announcement to move from 17% to 100% U.S. beef in their stores is exciting for cattle producers,” said Rueber. “USMEF has been working on this for 13 years. This will result in a 15,000 metric ton increase in beef purchases this year.”

Efforts from USMEF to increase U.S. beef consumption at Costco included taste testing sessions utilizing different beef cuts, cooking methods and arranged meetings. The meetings were with Costco, potential exporters and processors from the U.S. and South Korea.

“As beef producers, we cannot become complacent, we must continue to focus on building long-term beef demand and being aware of future opportunities,” stated Strohbehn. “As an industry, we have to continue listening to what our consumers want, including our overseas customers.”