When East meets West in Iowa, something good happens for U.S. pork, thanks to coverage from the South Korea media.
“We work hard to raise safe, top-quality pork, and the media can help us tell this story,” said Tim Bierman, a wean-to-finish pork producer from Larrabee, Iowa, who serves on the National Pork Board’s International Trade Committee.
The Pork Checkoff recently partnered with the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) to host four high-profile South Korean journalists from a food magazine, a lifestyle magazine, a women’s magazine and one of South Korea’s leading newspapers. The tour included a visit to Sheehan Farms near Remsen, where Dan Sheehan manages swine nursery and finisher barns.
“We explained the technology we use in modern pork production and how we work closely with our veterinarian to provide the best care possible for our animals,” Sheehan said.
The reporters appreciated this opportunity, said Min Park, USMEF’s South Korea public relations manager.
“Korean consumers sometimes think foreign agricultural products are inferior to domestic products. Unfortunately, some Koreans are tainted by information from the animal activists. It’s important to give Korean journalists an opportunity to meet U.S. farmers, who are devoted to producing wholesome pork, protecting animal welfare and caring for the environment.”
Bold Flavors Create Memorable Pork Meals
The tour included a stop at the Checkoff’s National Pork Board office, where the journalists learned about pork industry sustainability from CEO Chris Novak. They also received an update on the Pork Quality Assurance® Plus and the Transport Quality Assurance® programs from Sherrie Niekamp, director of animal welfare. Chris Hostetler, director of animal science, provided an overview of swine health and animal production.
“The journalists were impressed by the Pork Checkoff’s role in research and education throughout the pork production process, from farm to table,” Park said.
During their time in Iowa, the journalists also visited the Better Homes and Gardens/Meredith Corporation’s test kitchen and toured two grocery stores, including a large, regional chain and a small, local retail chain with a full-service meat case.
Pork was served in various forms throughout the tour, including breakfast items at a family-style restaurant; a lunch buffet featuring ribs, pulled pork and sausage at a BBQ restaurant in Des Moines; a pork-and-beer pairing event at a local brewery and a pork-inspired meal at an Iowa winery.
“Experiencing U.S. pork in various restaurants gave the journalists a new perspective, because pork is not a common ingredient in upscale restaurants in Korea,” Park said.
The Korean media were especially interested in bacon, said Becca Hendricks, the Pork Checkoff’s assistant vice president of international marketing, who helped coordinate and host the group. “Koreans traditionally serve fresh pork belly. Also, Korean cooks tend to use much thinner cuts of pork, in general, compared with Americans.”
Putting U.S. Pork on the World’s Table
Overall global U.S. pork exports have increased in recent months. July 2013 data showed that U.S. pork and pork variety meat exports are up 8 percent over July of 2012, Hendricks said.
USMEF Korea is working hard to promote chilled U.S. pork in the Korean market, said Park, who noted that the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (implemented in 2012) is making U.S. pork competitive in Korea.
While exports to Korea have decreased in 2013 due to high domestic supplies, the United States has gained market share over exporting competitors. To maintain this momentum, it’s important to educate key influencers worldwide through events like the Korean journalists’ tour, Park said.
“The journalists’ articles and photos of cornfields, tidy hog barns, clean piglets and mouthwatering pork dishes will strengthen U.S. pork’s image and will position it as a wholesome, desirable product,” Park said.