Cattlemen’s Beef Board goes on trade mission

Idaho cattleman Jared Brackett enjoys the beef industry.

He enjoys it so much he’s the vice chairman of the Cattlemen’s Beef Promotion and Research Board and went halfway around the globe to promote American beef. A beef leadership team recently returned from Japan and Taiwan where delegates visited retailers and restaurants.

“Really, really enjoy the beef industry,” Brackett said. “So very fortunate I can make a living doing it.”

Brackett, from Filer, Idaho, has a cow-calf/stocker operation where they retain the calves, finish them and run them as yearlings. Later the stock goes into the feedlot and to the Painted Hills Natural Beef in Oregon.

“We got a really unique industry, because we have the ability to work with our grandparents, our parents, our kids,” Brackett said. “You can have multi-generations on one piece of property all working together. That’s really unique.”

His visit to Japan and Taiwan allowed him to tell his beef story, and interact with consumers in both countries while telling the story of United States beef. Brackett was joined by officials from the U.S. Meat Export Federation as well as producers from Idaho, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa and Oklahoma. CBB and beef council members were also on the trip.

“Basically this trip’s purpose was for not only American producers to interact with our customers in Japan and Taiwan, but also put a face with American beef over in Japan and Taiwan,” Brackett said. “For not only consumers over there, but distributors, marketers and then also gives our producers a chance to understand how our products being marketed and what needs to be done what they’re doing.”

Brackett called his experience “eye opening” and the biggest thing to him was that Costco there was nearly identical to those in the U.S.

“When you get to the meat counter, and the meat case, and it’s all U.S. beef, incredibly well packaged,” Brackett said. “But you’re not seeing the ribeyes, the T-bones, the brisket. You’re seeing very thinly sliced meat.”

Brackett said the thinly sliced cuts are used primarily in their tabletop grills and hot pots.

“It’s a different product,” Brackett said. “It’s also all choice and prime U.S. beef. Especially in Japan, they really liked the flavor of grain fed, corn fed beef.”

Prime cuts of U.S. beef are considered the lean alternative to their Waygu beef.

“If you’ve ever had their Waygu beef it’s incredibly rich. A little bit goes a long way,” Brackett said. “So they’re actually able to eat more U.S. beef because it’s not as rich.”

The other thing that opened Brackett’s eyes on the trip was USMEF’s high quality staff.

“These people have been there for a long time,” Brackett said. “They understand their markets and just watching how their marketing and the new things we’re trying.”

He also learned that Taiwan cannot afford to compete with South Korea and Japan for cuts of meat.

“They’re not going to be able to buy the briskets and things that people are now eating in Japan and South Korea,” Brackett said. “So instead we’re trying to sell them tri-tip.”

Cuts like tri-tip are popular in Idaho where Brackett lives, but it’s not as popular in other states. Essentially it’s a value-added cut that can be marketed in another way. The Idaho Beef Council is running a promotion with USMEF on a product they call Idaho steak fingers, he said.

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“Japanese chefs are really liking this as well as our new distributors. Because they’re able to take strips of meat, prep them and fry them,” Brackett said. “Their retail profit margin is incredibly good on it.”

“It also has a fast food (aspect). It’s a finger food,” Brackett said. “Japanese people are just starting to get to it, and really, really like it.”

It’s because of the innovations in the cuts, the people of Japan and Taiwan are getting the kinds of cuts they need from American beef.

“We’ll need a lot of meat because of the additional things we’re doing,” Brackett said.

The group was also able to visit a variety of restaurants, which Brackett called, “old, traditional and new.” While in Taiwan they went to “traditional” Taiwanese restaurants and found it “incredibly good.” They also went to a place called Jack Brothers Steakhouse, where he sampled the prime rib.

“That was probably in my top five prime ribs I’ve ever eaten in my life,” Brackett said. “Incredibly well cooked, incredibly well seasoned, very well presented.”

Taiwan is different in the global market, according to Brackett because people there like to go out and eat.

In Japan they visited a traditional Japanese steakhouse and sampled their Waygu, American prime beef, intestines and tongue.

“Just to get the gamut of everything that they eat, that essentially we’re providing them,” Brackett said. “Except for the Waygu beef, the rest of that was product that we provided them.”

Tongue for example, is about $6 a pound in Japan, and Brackett believes that’s one more value-added product American beef producers can take advantage of.

“That’s a lot of money back to our producers because of that,” he said. “Now that they’ve lifted the 30 months of age restriction, we could send even more tongue. It’s a good deal for us.”

The group was also able to check out some of the new things chefs and restaurants were doing. In Taiwan they went to Selfish Burger, a high-end gourmet burger restaurant where patrons can get about anything they want on it. They grind all their beef on site and use U.S. beef.

“You get your hamburger made any way you want with all sorts of weird things put on it,” Brackett said. “They have sauerkraut and all sorts of Asian stuff that they put on top like ginger, you name it, they would make it for you basically.”

Brackett said Selfish Burger’s concept is, “It’s so good, and you’re going to be selfish and eat it all yourself.”

“It was a good burger,” he said.

Part of what USMEF does is help developers overseas get the product they need in their shops. He believes the goal of the mission was to put a face with American beef in Taiwan and Japan and felt good about the trip.

“We got to experience something as far as understanding what the U.S. Meat Export Federation is doing. What they’re doing for our producers as far as helping market and expand demand for beef in those countries,” Brackett said. “Then it was good for us to understand what the Japanese consumers looking for.”

Brackett was happy to be one of those “real producers” on the trip, as factory farm terminology is all over the place.

“We come over and they realize we’re just normal people, just like them,” Brackett said.

“They love the story we have. The whole family thing. The family farms. And we’re very proud of our product,” he said. “They really like our product and so for them to be able to put a face to that product—means a lot to them.”

Kylene Scott can be reached at 620-227-1804 or [email protected].