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U.S. beef exports to Korea setting new records

Beef export volume to Korea up 12% during first half, and value 15% ahead of last year’s record pace.

U.S. beef exports to South Korea set a new monthly value record in June, at more than $178 million, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF); export volume was 2% higher than a year ago, at 25,118 metric tons. For the first half of 2019, export volume was 12% higher, and value to Korea was 15% ahead of last year’s record pace.

According to USMEF, Korea surpassed Mexico as the second-largest destination for U.S. beef exports. This year, it’s closing the gap on leading market Japan.

USMEF Korea director Jihae Yang explained that the market offers a variety of opportunities for U.S. beef.

“U.S. beef has been successfully established in Korean retail and foodservices, but it [is] also rapidly gaining popularity in e-commerce,” she said.

Further, she relayed that recent export growth is not only in the typical Korean items like short ribs or chuck eye roll but also in underutilized cuts like short plate, brisket points, clod and even the round.

This is occurring, she said, because end users recognize the versatility and affordability of high-quality U.S. beef.

Yang said the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS) accelerated market demand and beef consumption in Korea. In fact, since the implementation of KORUS, Korea’s per capita consumption of beef has increased by 5.5 lb.

According to Yang, the quality of home meal replacement is now almost equivalent to restaurant quality, but at 42-50% of the cost of restaurant menu prices. She pointed out that a meal kit for two people costs about $10-12.

“Local beef cannot meet this price point, so U.S. beef is capturing this fast-growing opportunity,” Yang said.

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