US tackles UK resistance

US meat exports into Europe have almost doubled, but the UK remains a difficult market to crack, according to US representatives.

Anne Bardot, spokeswoman for the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF), speaking at Anuga in Cologne last week, said interest in US beef was rising all the time. "Our export figures have doubled. In 2006, we shipped 3,500t and, for the first eight months of this year, we've sent 6,500t and we expect that to rise to 8,000t by the end of 2007."

The US quota for beef into Europe stands at 11,500t and she said the USMEF's goal

now was to fill that quota by next year.

But the UK is proving a tougher market, said John Brook, regional director with USMEF. "The UK is resisting. There is some US beef in London, but overall, the UK is not showing the same interest as the rest of Europe. Importers are complaining there is resistance for people to try US beef. It's a sophisticated market and there are issues with costs over US beef."

He said the lower margins were not encouraging importers to take the plunge into offering the beef. However, Brook added he was confident things would change: "It's just a question of time."

The focus is very much on the foodservice market and USMEF is organising trips out to the US for chefs to see US production first-hand. Bardot said: "We're taking high-profile chefs out there, people with one or two Michelin stars, and we hope that they will act as ambassadors for US beef when they come back."