International marketing was firmly on the minds of many pork producers attending the World Pork Expo in Des Moines last week, where a seminar conducted by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) made for a very popular and informative destination.    

USMEF Chair-elect Danita Rodibaugh, a pork producer from Rensselaer, Ind., was on hand with senior USMEF staff members to discuss the history and mission of USMEF, as well as current global marketing strategies and key issues related to pork trade. Along with USMEF’s Mexico City-based chef Max Covaliu, they showcased pork entrées that have proven very successful in the key markets of Japan, Mexico and Central America.

Rodibaugh explains that Japan is by far the largest value market for U.S. pork, surpassing $1.6 billion last year. One of the reasons behind this strong growth has been the recent introduction of back ribs – a product featured in Japan in only the past two years. Japanese-style pork back ribs were among the entrées sampled at the seminar, along with pistachio-crusted pork satays and pork arrachera, popular Latin American dishes made with cuts from the pork leg.

For producers on hand, the April USDA export results also came as very positive news. April pork exports reached 181,109 metric tons valued at $487.8 million – up 16 percent in volume and 22 percent in value over last year. On a cumulative basis through April, 2011 pork exports are 18 percent ahead of last year’s pace in volume (735,294 metric tons) and 24 percent higher in value ($1.87 billion). As Rodibaugh explains, this equates to more than $56 per head slaughtered, compared to about $44 during the same period in 2010.  

Source: USMEF