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International Chefs Show Love for American Pork Butt

Published: Nov 09, 2011
While the U.S. pork butt is considered an undervalued cut in this country, it received royal treatment from a group of international visitors last week who unveiled a delicious variety of recipes and presentations for an appreciative audience of several hundred attendees at the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) Strategic Planning Conference in Tucson.

Chefs from the British Virgin Islands, China and South Korea were joined by a recipe contest winner from Japan last Thursday for a demonstration of their unique approaches to the pork CT (cellar-trimmed) butt, and the crowd voted its approval by enjoying seconds – and sometimes third helpings – while making the rounds of the internationally themed food stations.

Support for the event was provided through the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) as well as the Pork, Corn and Soybean checkoff programs.

Jerk pork sliders with caramelized onions from the Caribbean, butterfly pork butt steak and Cantonese-style barbecued U.S. pork from China, hutsumabushi (a dish traditionally made with grilled eel, rice and Japanese herbs) from Japan and bulgogi from South Korea were instant hits with the gathering of 200-plus USMEF members from around the U.S.

“This was a great opportunity for our members to see how USMEF operates internationally, and how the pork products we enjoy here in the States are interpreted by chefs around the world,” said Dan Halstrom, USMEF senior vice president for global marketing and communications. “The enthusiasm and energy of our four international chefs helped make this an outstanding event.”

“Both Chinese chefs and consumers think that U.S. pork is very high quality,” said executive chef Guo Kai Yang of The Supersteak Restaurant in Shenzhen, as he demonstrated his preparation techniques for the audience.

“Once you’ve tasted pork butt, you’ll always want to go back,” said executive chef Lisa Sellers of the Caribbean’s Peter Island Resort & Spa, who prepared both her jerk pork sliders as well as her popular pork butt Mighty Cone – shredded pork in a tortilla “snow cone.”

“Koreans love every cut of American pork,” said executive chef Sean Kim, who displayed the pork butt recipe he has added to the menu at his trendy Seoul restaurant, Eatry.

The pork butt recipe representing Japan was created through a consumer recipe contest – “Mom’s Homemade Recipe Using U.S. Pork Butt” – that attracted more than 1,000 entries. The winner, Tokyo homemaker Kaori Ishibashi, adapted a traditional Japanese recipe that typically would utilize eel. However, since eel is high in fat, she substituted pork butt, which is lower in fat and calories and higher in protein and vitamin B-12.

“I like to use American pork in meals because I think it is good not only for my husband, who has high cholesterol, but also for my children who need good nutrition,” said Ishibashi.

The pork butt event was the latest in a coordinated series of programs designed to raise the profile of the flavorful and tender pork cut in the international marketplace. Since the pork butt was identified by U.S. pork processors and exporters at a USMEF meeting designed to target undervalued cuts, USMEF has focused its efforts on incorporating the cut into the local cuisine of key import countries.

In Japan, the consumer contest yielded more than 1,000 entries, including the grand prize winner of American pork butt with plum wine along with the recipe by Ishibashi that was chosen as the “ambassador prize” winner for sampling at the USMEF meeting.

The pork butt also was the focus of a Facebook campaign in Japan that awarded prizes of U.S. pork butt to consumers based on the creativity of their answers to questions related to the product.

In Korea, pork is not typically found on the entrée menus of high-end Korean restaurants, but USMEF collaborated with gourmet magazine Cookand on a special promotion that involved having five gourmet restaurants add unique pork butt recipes to their menu. The Eatery restaurant introduced a special 8-ounce pork steak while Ciro Olivio (Italian) added a pork cutlet with saffron risotto and Jungshikdang (New Korean cuisine) introduced pork butt with kimchi sauerkraut. Serial Gourmet (North American-style restaurant) introduced a milk-braised pulled pork butt sandwich while Shy Bana (Southern family-style) added a New Orleans-style pork steak.

Individual pork butt promotions are ongoing in both Japan and Korea in addition to the food service sectors in the Caribbean, China and Singapore, as well as in the retail sector in Russia and Taiwan.

As one of the top volume export items in Asian markets, the pork butt has been a significant contributor to the record pace U.S. pork exports are maintaining this year. Overall, exports through the first eight months of 2011 are up 16 percent in volume over 2010 to 3.2 billion pounds valued at $3.8 billion – an increase of 23 percent in value.