There's a lot of talk these days about how U.S. beef is the best in the world. It's nice to hear.
I think as a collective national industry we always know we can do better and we're always beating ourselves up over our flaws. That's okay, but we also should hear our strengths.
So here's a kudo from overseas: John Brook, one of the front men for the U.S. Meat Export Federation, says U.S. Beef is considered the best-tasting and most-consistent beef product available in the part of the world he covers.
John Brook is USMEF regional director for Europe, Russia and the Middle East.
That's an interesting statement because his area is the Middle East, Russia and the European Union. Put another way, his customer base specializes in sausages and steaks.
Price matters a lot at the sausage end of the equation. Cheap protein is the key component of those markets. We win there with livers, kidneys and hearts.
Yet there's a growing restaurant trade using steaks and ground beef, especially in the oil-exporting countries. This includes not only four- and five-star restaurants, but chains such as Ruby Tuesday's Fuddruckers hamburgers, and McDonalds. It's small, but it's driving demand up, Brook says.
Price is an issue in Russia, plus the country has an import quota limitation, but USMEF seminars on the taste superiority and juiciness of US beef is winning especially upper-end clientele there, too, he says.
Then there's the EU… It's a complex region with a strange and lengthy set of regulations and quotas, but Brook says our beef is on the rise there. USMEF focuses on the restaurant trade because their quotas hold down tonnage.
However, here's the great news about the EU and the opportunity for us there: We're still not exporting to them at the level the quota allows. After the three-year test agreement ends the quota could allow significantly larger imports from the U.S. He says we could get a 50% increase in 2011.
Room to grow is something to cheer about, seems to me.
On a sour note: Brook warns the Europeans are adamant about traceability and they think our system is lax. He didn't exactly say this, but I gather one little disease problem here or an exported E. coli problem shipped from us to them could cut our throats.
That aside, Brook paints a pretty rosy picture for rises in export demand from his corner of the world.