Grain is one of the United States’ most important exports, but grain producers are appreciating more and more that when the United States exports pork and beef, it’s really exporting grain.

U.S. corn growers recently visited the European Union, in a team put together by the U.S. Grains Council and the U.S. Meat Export Federation, for face-to-face meetings with EU officials, importers, traders and farmers.

Since the high-quality flavor of U.S. pork and beef is mostly a product of the animals’ grain and soybean diets, in the past decade, 2.6 million bushels of corn were exported in the value-added form of $43 billion of U.S. pork and beef exports.

“The European Union is not a bulk corn importer, but if we can access these markets through U.S. meat exports, then we are still exporting corn,” says Rodney Weinzierl, executive director, Illinois Corn Marketing Board.

Biotechnology issues the EU and the United States differ on also were talked about, including the new testing requirements for Bt10 in corn gluten feed and distiller’s dried grains with solubles entering the EU feed market from the United States.

After meeting with EU feed grain processors to learn about opportunities and barriers to U.S. corn exports, the team was struck by the difficulty in exporting both grains and meat to the EU. The expansion to the EU-25, brings changes in production patterns.

“U.S. corn products are benefiting when the U.S. Meat Export Federation, the U.S. Grains Council and the U.S. Poultry and Egg Export Council work cooperatively, and because of these synergies, U.S. corn in one form or other is able to access almost every market in the world,” says Weinzierl.

U.S. pork exports to the EU in 2004 totaled 10,712 metric tons, $30.3 million.