CBB Chair Joan Ruskamp Sees Beef Checkoff Investments in Action During Goodwill Trip to AsiaThu, 24 May 2018 15:00:07 CDT
Chair of the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion Board and cattle producer from Nebraska, Joan Ruskamp, recently had the chance to join other cattle industry leaders on a trip with the US Meat Export Federation to some of the key Asian destinations for the US beef industry. She spoke about her experience with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays. Listen to their conversation in full, by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below at the bottom of the page.
“We were able to go to the cities of Beijing in China and Tokyo, Japan and really had a chance to compare a new emerging market and one that’s been in place for 20 years,” Ruskamp said. “Big differences in both countries and being able to see that in one trip was interesting and also gave us an idea of opportunities versus challenges.”
In Ruskamp’s mind, China holds as many opportunities as it does challenges. She says that right now, the market is relatively small compared to other markets, but the growth potential is significant. The problem, is that the US beef industry is practically having to invent a supply chain from scratch in order to make beef available for people to purchase. Ruskamp says the USMEF is working hard to develop that system but says with the strict regulations and protocols China has in place, it makes the job very difficult and she believes will cause the process moving forward to be very slow. Given time to grow, though, she insists it will be very rewarding.
“USMEF - their strategy is really all about building relationships. Whatever country they’re in, they’re continuously building relationships with the leaders and the people that live that country,” she explained. “That’s key and we saw that in action.”
What was interesting and somewhat ironic to Ruskamp, was that in Chinese supermarkets, the price per pound for low-end cuts like beef tongue were actually higher compared to a prime steak. While that seemed odd to her, it impressed upon her the opportunity that lies therein to increase the value of beef carcasses back home in the US by taking advantage of the Chinese affinity for variety meats that typically don’t get used much in America.
On the other hand, in Japan, high-quality US beef is becoming increasingly popular. Ruskamp says the people there love the taste and want to buy more of it. The issue, of course, is that as a non-member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, US beef is subject to a 38.5 percent tariff there putting it at a considerable disadvantage to other beef importing nations. Ruskamp says until a bilateral deal is struck between the US and Japan, the industry will have to rely on the loyalty of its growing base of customers there and the quality of their product that keeps them coming back. If nothing else, she says this trip reinforced her position that continued investment to promote beef in these growing markets is essential to the long-term success of the US beef industry.
“We need programs like our Checkoff program to fuel these types of relationships, because if we as producers aren’t funding a system that builds relationships - who will do it?”
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