Iowa cattle feeders Dan Cook of New Providence, and Kent Pruismann of Rock Valley, participated in an Iowa Meat Trade Mission to Guatemala and Panama in early February. Cook, past chairman of the Iowa Beef Industry Council, explained that the mission was exploratory in nature to determine if there is a market for U.S. quality beef in Central America.
"Price is the biggest issue in Guatemala, as 70% of their population lives in poverty. Importers have discovered that high quality grain-fed beef is more tender and flavorful than their domestic beef, and as their economy improves, there will be potential to increase their imports of U.S. beef," says Cook.
The most desired cuts in Guatemala include rounds, skirt steaks and top sirloin caps, the Iowa trade team learned. They met with meat processors, government agencies, and importers in Guatemala City and Panama City. The group toured foodservice operations and retail supermarkets.
U.S. brands are well-received and there is potential to sell more beef there
"Panama is a country with a population similar to Iowa, but I am impressed with the economic activity going on in the country with the expansion of the Panama Canal and the increase in the amount of tourism they are getting," added Kent Pruismann, who is a Cattlemen's Beef Board director. "The Free Trade Zone draws business executives and travelers from around the world. Restaurants and high-end retail stores are selling U.S. beef to people who want quality food."
Pruismann notes that "U.S. brands are well received in both countries, and their citizens include beef in their diets. As the upper middle class grows in these Central American nations, they want to improve their food choices."
"I was also impressed with the market development activities of the U.S. Meat Export Federation," he said. "They not only develop joint U.S. meat promotions but are committed to education and training programs in meat cutting, product safety, handling and preparation to help the companies be successful in selling U.S. beef and pork long term. I'm pleased to see my checkoff at work in this way."
The Meat Trade Mission was coordinated by the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the U.S. Meat Export Federation. Other attendees included members of the Iowa Pork Producers Association and a private Iowa meat business. Partial funding for the mission was provided by the beef checkoff.
Iowa Beef Industry Council: The Iowa Beef Industry Council is funded by the $1-per-head beef checkoff. Checkoff dollars are invested in beef promotion, consumer information, research, industry information and foreign market development, all with the purpose of strengthening beef demand. For more information visit www.iabeef.org.