While the U.S. Meat Export Federation and other groups promote the quality of American meat in places like South Korea and Japan, a campaign promoting European beef and pork is about to begin here in the United States. The program, titled “Tradition, quality and European taste,” is directed by the Union of Producers and Employers of Meat Industry (UPEMI) – an organization grouping employers representing the European meat sector in general.

According to a news release, the project is financed by the EU and Poland, and will be launch in three countries: USA, Vietnam and South Korea. The campaign primarily targets distributors, wholesalers, importers, local manufacturing and processing establishments and industry associations.

The release points out that Europe is a well-known traditional producer of excellent beef and pork. “The breeding resulting from the restrictive requirements of EU directives and from the due care given to each and every element of the food chain make it possible to obtain high quality meat,” the report reads. “It is these two factors: traditional production process and good quality that make European meat so popular throughout the world.”

The campaign planners intend to focus on several points, including:  

  • Production based on the HACCP system, which is mandatory in the European Union.
  • Product certification in international quality systems such as ISO, BRC, IFS, GlobalGAP, as well as food quality systems in Europe dedicated to the meat industry.
  • Animal feeds, welfare and the impact of these factors on the flavor and technological parameters of meat.
  • Properties of meat obtained through traditional breeding such as intramuscular fat content and control of technological defects.
  • European culinary traditions based on pork and beef.

It will be interesting to see how these messages play with U.S. consumers, but it seems unlikely European meats, beef in particular, will offer serious competition to U.S.  products, either here or in Asia. European production costs generally are higher than those in the United States. Throw in transportation and a poor Dollar-to-Euro exchange rate – one Euro currently buys $1.43 – and European meats are likely to sell at a significant premium. U.S. retail prices for domestic beef already are high enough to dampen demand and drive consumers to cheaper alternatives, and European beef likely will remain a niche product.

We cannot, however, become complacent in our belief that U.S. beef will forever retain its place at the peak of quality and value in international beef trade. The Europeans are promoting quality control, food safety and tradition, seeking to differentiate their meat products in global markets. We’ll need to continue doing the same, and back up our claims with documentation and assurances that promote consumer confidence, to retain our dominant position in the world marketplace.