Iowa beef producers Dan Cook, New Providence, and Kent Pruismann, Rock Valley, participated in an Iowa Meat Trade Mission to Guatemala and Panama in early February. Cook, past chairman of the Iowa Beef Industry Council, explained that the mission was exploratory in nature to determine if there is a market for U.S. quality beef in Central America.

“Price is the biggest issue in Guatemala, as 70% of their population lives in poverty. Importers have discovered that high quality grain-fed beef is more tender and flavorful than their domestic beef, and as their economy improves, there will be potential to increase their imports of U.S. beef,” said Cook.

The most desired cuts in Guatemala include rounds, skirt steaks, and top sirloin caps, the Iowa trade team learned as they met with meat processors, government agencies, and importers in Guatemala City and Panama City. The group toured foodservice operations and retail supermarkets.

“Panama is a country with a population similar to Iowa, but I am impressed with the economic activity going on in the country with the expansion of the canal and the increase in tourism,” added Kent Pruismann, who is a Cattlemen’s Beef Board director. “The Free Trade Zone draws business executives and travelers from around the world. Restaurants and high-end retail stores are selling U.S. beef to people who want quality food.

“U.S. brands are well received in both countries, and their citizens include beef in their diets. As the upper middle class grows they want to improve their food choices,” Pruismann said.

“I was also impressed with the market development activities of the U.S. Meat Export Federation,” he said. “They not only develop joint U.S. meat promotions but are committed to education and training programs in meat cutting, product safety, handling and preparation to help the companies be successful in selling U.S. beef and pork long term. I’m pleased to see my checkoff at work in this way.”

The Meat Trade Mission was coordinated by the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the U.S. Meat Export Federation. Other attendees included members of the Iowa Pork Producers Association and a private Iowa meat business. Partial funding for the mission was provided by the beef checkoff.