The Illinois soybean checkoff has long promoted growing global pork exports, but particularly in Mexico where pork export levels have continued to rise and where per capita consumption outpaces their domestic production. This increasing demand for U.S. pork spells good news for Illinois soybean farmers who play an important role in the pork supply chain.
In 2021, Mexico reclaimed its position as the leading volume destination of U.S. pork – and they claimed it in a record-breaking way. Up 27 precent from 2020, 874,589 mt of pork went to Mexico’s meat markets last year, eclipsing the previous record set in 2017 by 9 percent. Some of the biggest gains have been in the retail and foodservice sectors where Mexico is seeing more demand for in-home pork preparation and availability through takeout and delivery services.
And while this U.S. pork growth trajectory is a fun story to tell, what’s even better are the innovative promotions of the United States Meat Export Federation (USMEF) that put pork on the plate in creative and out of the box ways. The ISA checkoff program is currently funding these efforts that meet consumers where they are – at food trucks, grocery stores and festivals – and taking advantage of every opportunity to introduce new consumers to what we hope to become a staple product.
Pork on Wheels
USMEF has found success by taking putting U.S. pork products on the road. Using the popular food truck concept, they’ve allowed Mexican consumers to sample new items as it’s traveled across the country. These unique tasting demonstrations featured were pork loin and pork “arrachera”, an item made from ham.
They’ve also taken U.S. pork to a women’s motorcycle event where they interacted with influencers, media and 60 women Harley Davidson enthusiasts who sampled pork from Chef Andrea Sayeg of Alay Alay. They were offered a variety of pork tacos featuring different cuts of pork before heading out on a ride in Tepoztlán, Morelos, near to Mexico City.
In Aguascalientes, USMEF partnered with Empacadora San Francisco to host a spring bike fest. After the mountain bike tour, participants were treated to a U.S. pork tasting demonstration. They were introduced to pork specialties like pork arrachera tacos with sausage, pressed chicharrón with aguachile, and pork belly bites. They also learned how to pair their U.S. pork favorites with local craft beers.
A grilling education program took a mobile kitchen on the road to importers and end-users of U.S. pork. This experience taught customers how to properly grill different cuts of pork, like pork loin and sausage, and introduced them to new ways to prepare pork products they find on major grocery retailer shelves.
Evaluations and Education
Other promotion efforts this year have been more educational in nature. To differentiate U.S. pork in Mexico, which does not require country of origin identification, USMEF invests time into educating major meat retailers about the promotion and presentation of U.S. pork in the meat case. A team of reviewers regularly visits retail chains to evaluate and maintain point-of-sale materials, and to check labeling and inventory levels. USMEF conducts this program with 10 national retail chains and incentivizes retailer participation through an “Ideal Meat Case” contest.
ISA At-Large Director, Tim Scates, of Carmi, Ill., has seen the USMEF retailer education campaigns first-hand and recognizes their value.
“Walking through a grocery store meat case in Mexico City, U.S. pork is in a prominent location and through different point of sale materials and through on-site chefs there to help shoppers make their pork selections and to teach them how to prepare the different cuts, it was an impressive partnership to see,” he says. “USMEF has the support of the ISA checkoff program because they do great work in helping the consumers see the value and quality of a U.S. product. I look forward to seeing all that we do with USMEF in the future, particularly with this Mexico market.”
Going forward, ISA will continue to work with USMEF on ongoing market development and promotion programs, developing demand among new and existing buyers and expanding the volume and range of pork cuts purchased in this Mexico export market.