Animal welfare and sustainability are not yet popular topics of conversation in Asian markets, such as South Korea, but it is only a matter of time before the trends that take root in Europe and the United States will find their way around the globe.
The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) office in Korea recently took a proactive approach to these sensitive subject matters by hosting a workshop for 230 Korean red meat importers, distributors, retail and food service operators to give them insights into the care that the U.S. beef and pork industries take both in raising livestock and in caring for the land that supports the production of American red meat.
The progress that American agriculture has achieved in the areas of efficient resource utilization was highlighted by Travis Arp, USMEF’s manager of technical services, who also addressed the industry’s ability to produce more high-quality red meat with the same or fewer animals in a humane environment. The educational program was provided with funding support from the USDA Market Access Program (MAP), the Beef Checkoff Program and the Pork Checkoff.
“One of the primary issues in South Korea is tight regulation on the ability of processors to label product as ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ or other marketing descriptors that cannot be uniformly defined,” said Arp. “Since labels can’t be used for this purpose in Korea, our goal is to help the importers and buyers in Korea better understand the care that goes into the production of U.S. pork and beef so they can make their purchasing decisions based on knowledge.”
Arp outlined the positive environmental impacts that both the U.S. pork and beef industries have made, resulting in significant reductions in water use, land use, greenhouse emissions and energy consumption.
At the same time, he noted how the overall efficiency of the U.S. pork industry increased dramatically from 1959 through 2009, realizing a 33 percent improvement in feed efficiency and a doubling of carcass weight production despite a 39 percent decline in the breed herd. Similarly, the U.S. beef industry boosted the yield per animal 28 percent between 1977 and 2007, requiring only four animals to produce the same amount of beef as five animals produced 30 years earlier.
While the U.S. livestock industry has improved its efficiency, it also has focused on the welfare of the animals, working to ensure that all animals raised for food or as working animals enjoy the Five Animal Freedoms: freedom from hunger and thirst; freedom from discomfort; freedom from pain, injury or disease; freedom to express normal behavior, and freedom from fear and distress.