South Koreans are loving American beef.
Two prominent South Korean women's magazines have featured U.S. beef in their December issues, signaling a possible change in the public attitude toward U.S. beef in this key export market. Woman Chosun and Woman Sense each produced lengthy and very positive articles in their current issues that are targeted to a key audience – the housewives who purchase groceries for family meals. One editor already has reported that the articles have been positively received.
The timing of the articles is fortuitous, coinciding with the return of U.S. beef to the 'big box' retailers that serve Korean consumers.
USMEF staff in Seoul have been engaged in an ongoing education campaign to help South Korean reporters better understand the science behind food safety and the comprehensive food safety protocols utilized by the U.S. beef industry. This has laid the foundation with editors for their decision to again feature stories about U.S. beef in their publications.
The 33-page full-color article in Woman Chosun, which has a circulation of 50,000, provides an overview of the U.S. beef industry with information on cattle feeding, processing, inspection and U.S. consumption trends. The article also provides 16 recipes that all utilize U.S. beef, including chuck eye roll, LA ribs, boneless short ribs, rib eye, brisket point, back ribs, bone-in chuck short ribs and brisket.
The 12-page full-color article in Woman Sense, which has a circulation of 80,000, featured U.S. beef menus from a number of prominent U.S. restaurants. The article also made the point that U.S. consumers happily consume our own beef--refuting an unfounded rumor that circulated in South Korean media and internet commentaries during the peak of anti-U.S. beef protests last summer.
"We are delighted to see two well-regarded women's magazines publish very positive and factual articles about U.S. beef," said Jihae Yang, USMEF director for South Korea. "We believe this shift in the media's willingness to report in a neutral manner will help consumers once again welcome U.S. beef back to the Korean market."
U.S. beef exports to South Korea have rebounded in recent months. Korean media reported earlier this week that since sales resumed a week ago at the discount stores, Lotte Mart had sold a total of 79 metric tons (174,163 pounds) of U.S. beef. During the same period, 29.5 tons (65,035 pounds) of Australian beef had been sold. Home Plus stores sold 119.9 tons (264,331 pounds) of U.S. beef for the week, 10 percent more than Australian beef. At another chain, E-mart, Australian beef was discounted and narrowly outsold U.S. beef. A total of 175 tons (385,805 pounds) of U.S. beef was sold at E-Mart for the week compared to 180 tons (396,828 pounds) of Australian beef.
In 2003, prior to the discovery of BSE in the United States, South Korea was the third-largest export market for U.S. beef. Beef exports to Korea that year totaled 246,595 metric tons (543.6 million pounds) valued at $815 million, accounting for 19.3 percent of U.S. beef exports by volume and 21.1 percent by value.