Summer grilling marketing build demand for U.S. beef and pork in Central America  - Indiana Corn and Soy

Summer grilling marketing build demand for U.S. beef and pork in Central America 

Posted: May 18, 2024
Category: ICMC, Indiana Corn and Soybean Post - May 2024, ISA, News

Grilling is taking off across Central America and the trend has provided opportunity for the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) to build demand for U.S. beef and pork beyond ingredients for further processing. 

The communication window opened by grilling events is especially key for pork, which has often been misunderstood in the region. 

“In Central America, they used to think that pork needs to be overcooked, and maybe it’s not as healthy as they would like,” explained USMEF Central America Representative Lucia Ruano. “But we have been educating consumers and holding workshops where they can learn the nutritional facts. We bring in experts so they can have all that information firsthand from doctors and nutritionists who give them the correct information of what pork proteins represent.” 

Women are key to the message. Ruano brought together chefs to host consumer education programs funded through the USDA and the National Pork Board to not only show around 300 women in Honduras how to grill, but how flavorful U.S. pork is when prepared correctly. The program has been rebranded in 2024 to “Inspire Us” and expanded to include cooking methods beyond grilling, while showcasing the versatility of the loin. 

“We focused on loin because it is a very versatile muscle,” Ruano said. “We not only make chops, but also ribeyes – thicker cuts that visually have a better look than just a thin chop. So, they learn that with the loin, if it’s well managed and not overcooked, and you have the correct side dishes, it has a great taste.” 

In Panama, USMEF partnered with retail chain Riba Smith to conduct outdoor grilling and smoking demonstrations for U.S. pork on a rotating basis at seven of its largest outlets in Panama City. Per capita pork consumption continues to outpace domestic production in Central America and pork import growth is projected to continue, especially for high-quality product, Ruano said. 

On the beef side, more than 5,500 people turned out for Barbecue Fest in Costa Rica, an event supported by the Kansas City Barbecue Society and made possible through funding by the Beef Checkoff Program. Twenty-four teams participated in the international competition while chefs promoted the benefits and attributes of the U.S. beef cuts featured on the grills. 

The grilling trend, tied with USMEF promotions, is indeed leading to increased sales in the region. Through the first quarter of 2024, U.S. pork exports to Central America have increased 21 percent on the previous year at 37,681 metric tons (mt). By value, pork exports have risen 31 percent to nearly $115 million. Costa Rica, in particular, has seen phenomenal growth in U.S. pork demand, up 65 percent on volume and 82 percent on value. 

Beef exports to Central America are up 4 percent on volume in the first quarter at 5,708 mt and 15 percent on value at $42.5 million. 

It’s part of a strategy by USMEF to diversify global demand for U.S. red meat. While markets like Korea, Japan and Mexico headline the consumption, broadening demand in other, smaller markets and featuring underutilized cuts like the pork loin and beef round help insulate the U.S. industry from market fluctuations in a particular region or product. 

As a result, the per-head-slaughtered value to U.S. livestock producers from pork exports reached nearly $71 in March, the highest in almost three years. March beef export value per head of fed slaughter climbed above $450, the highest since mid-2022. 






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