Rarely found on menus in the U.S., variety meat – also called offal or fancy meat – takes many forms: kidneys, livers, stomachs, tendons, aortas, cheek meat, oxtails and more. And because it's highly sought after in key export markets of Egypt, Japan, Peru and Mexico, variety meat is gold to the U.S. beef industry.
According to the U.S. Meat Export Federation, total U.S. beef exports in 2012 set a new record at $5.51 billion. Beef offal represented $703.1 million, or about 12% of that. It also accounted for 28.4% of the total volume of beef exports.
And, virtually 100% of the U.S. livestock herd is represented in variety meat exports – some part of every animal is sold to international customers.
"Demand for both large and small intestines would tank without the international market," says Jerry Wiggs, export salesman for Greater Omaha Packing Company Inc. (OPC). "We are selling large intestines to South Korea or Koreans who recently moved to the U.S."
Wiggs says OPC just recently resumed selling small intestines to Mexico, where they had been banned since BSE was found in the U.S. in late 2003.
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