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U.S. Beef Showcased in Red-hot Chilean Market

Published: Sep 19, 2012
Over the past year, you would be hard-pressed to find a hotter market for U.S. beef than Chile, where exports have quadrupled in value and increased even more in volume. To further capitalize on this momentum, USMEF recently held educational seminars in the capital city of Santiago – one for importers and distributors and a second for Chile’s leading hotel and restaurant chefs. These events were made possible through checkoff support from the Texas Beef Council and additional funding from FAS-Santiago.

Upon reopening to U.S. beef in 2008, Chile imported 67 metric tons valued at about $567,000. By 2010, trade had grown to 1,000 metric tons valued at $5.6 million and U.S. beef was poised for a breakout year in 2011. The addition of new USMEF representation in the region (Peru-based Jessica Julca) and the lockout of beef imports from Paraguay due to foot-and-mouth disease helped fuel a surge in sales in this market. Momentum began to build in the fall, as U.S. beef exports to Chile averaged about $3 million per month from September through November. In December, exports totaled $4.6 million – more than 80 percent of the previous high for an entire calendar year.

With U.S. beef gaining a strong foothold in Chile, exports haven’t skipped a beat in 2012. Through July, exports were 347 percent ahead of last year’s pace in volume (6,600 metric tons) and 295 percent higher in value ($31.4 million, or an average of about $4.5 million per month.)

“U.S. beef market share in Chile has tripled over the past year, from about 2 percent to more than 6 percent,” said Julca. “But more importantly, the United States is becoming well-known here as a reliable supplier of quality muscle cuts. We’re exporting more beef muscle cuts to several markets in this region, but Chile is definitely the pacesetter.”

For the seminar aimed at importers and distributors, Dr. Dale Woerner of Colorado State University provided an overview of the U.S. beef production, processing and grading systems for 22 attendees. Following the seminar, the group enjoyed a buffet featuring U.S. short ribs prepared by Felipe Farias, executive chef for the Intercontinental Hotel in Santiago.

The seminar targeting chefs was held at INACAP, a technical school in Santiago that offers a very highly regarded culinary program. For this program, Woerner focused on the outside skirt, ribeye and knuckle, demonstrating the versatility of these cuts. The session also included a product tasting. About 30 chefs were in attendance, including instructors and former students from INACAP. But in addition to those attending, INACAP assisted USMEF in reaching out to a wide database of chefs and foodservice professionals throughout Chile.

“Meat buyers and foodservice professionals in Chile are intrigued by the traction U.S. beef has gained here,” said Julca. “Clearly their clientele has responded in an overwhelmingly positive manner because demand for U.S. beef is very strong. But it is important that we continue to provide them with the information and tools they need, so that we can develop and even larger and more loyal customer base.”

Note: One metric ton = 2,204.622 pounds. Export statistics refer to muscle cuts plus variety meat, unless otherwise indicated.