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South Korea a $2-billion export market for US beef

16 November 2021

US Meat Export Federation Strategic Planning Conference takes a look 30 years of exports to South Korea

The US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) Strategic Planning Conference and Board of Directors Meeting, held 10-12 November in Carlsbad, California, closed its meeting with a session focused on the impressive growth of red meat exports to South Korea. It's a market that has been in development and growing for the past 30 years.

USMEF first established an office in Seoul, South Korea some 30 years ago. Since its early days, Jihae Yang has been at the forefront of the Korea operation. She started with USMEF in 1998 and became the Korean director in 2006. She shared the many factors that led to US red meat's growth in South Korea at the meeting last week.

For the first time this year, beef exports to South Korea will reach $2 billion. High-value chilled exports to Korea are achieving explosive growth, with chilled beef export value up 50% year-over-year and chilled pork volume nearly tripling from a year ago.

Yang explained that booming retail demand has been the main growth driver. South Korean consumers are looking for more high-quality protein options that they can prepare at home, she said.

South Korea was already a leader in US meat sales through e-commerce platforms and home delivery. The popularity of these services has only grown in the past two years.  

The recent easing of COVID-related restrictions on restaurants and cafes has helped revive foodservice demand.  However, Yang expects dine-in traffic to remain below pre-COVID levels for some time. Consumers, she said, will continue to explore the ever-growing range of convenience items at home.



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