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American Steak Week Sizzles in Korean Restaurants

Published: Jan 06, 2014

Grain-fed American steaks – and discussion about them on the South Korean Internet – were sizzling recently as 18 leading restaurants in Korea gathered under the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) banner for an American Steak Week celebration of the finest in U.S. beef and pork steaks.

The unique promotion, developed with support from the USDA Market Access Program (MAP), the Beef Checkoff Program and the Pork Checkoff, crossed the lines of Seoul’s restaurant brands and combined both U.S. beef and pork steaks in a promotion that has won rave reviews – and loyal new fans for American steak – from some of the city’s top chefs.

“It was the right decision to join such a great event,” said Sunggu Jung, head chef of GOO STK restaurant. “We did well with lunch sales that have been a weak point for a long time. GOO STK is well-known for dry-aged beef steak and conventional loin cuts, but it was great to see that other cuts like the flat iron can also sell well.”

Pork steak was the item of choice for Yolk & Whites restaurant, which offered two pork steaks during the promotion and saw its U.S. pork sales jump nearly 80 percent. After the promotion ended, repeated customer requests encouraged head chef Jae-Hyun Noh to bring back the ‘Sizzling Pot Pork CT Butt Steak’ and it remains one of the restaurant’s best-selling dishes.

The “steak culture” is a growing phenomenon in South Korea, according to Jihae Yang, USMEF-Korea director, and the American Steak Week promotion involved the spectrum of restaurants ranging from Italian steakhouses and dry-aged beef steakhouses to mid-priced trendy restaurants and owner-chef steakhouses.

"Luxury" magazine's advertorial on U.S. beef and pork

Each participating restaurant provided a featured giveaway item to help promote American Steak Week, ranging from a grilled asparagus side dish and red velvet cake to wine and a chef’s apron. USMEF provided point-of-sale materials and leaflets along with salt and pepper shakers for each restaurant.

The event, which was heavily promoted through USMEF’s Facebook site to its 78,000 followers, was featured in posts by 16 influential bloggers who are prominent among Korean restaurant patrons. It also was the focus of an advertorial in the popular Chosun Ilbo newspaper, which has more than 2.2 million readers. It provided detailed information on U.S. steak cuts, wet- and dry-aging as well as cooking techniques.

The high-end lifestyle magazine “Luxury” also ran a six-page advertorial featuring each of the restaurants that participated in the promotion with comments from the chefs on while they prefer U.S. beef and pork.

“We are pleased that we could promote our steak menus through American Steak Week,” said Wonjin Choi, head chef of the Turtle Grill & Bar. “One of the new menus that we launched for American Steak Week is still selling well and will stay on our menu for a very long time. We would love to do the promotion again.”

Following are several links from Korean bloggers’ reports on American Steak Week:

Through the first 10 months of 2013, South Korea is the No. 6 market for U.S. pork exports, purchasing 76,342 metric tons (168.3 million pounds) valued at $210.9 million. It also is the No. 6 market for U.S. beef exports (No. 5 in terms of value) with 85,471 metric tons (188.4 million pounds) valued at $479.5 million.