December 1, 2008


US beef in South Korea regains popularity; outpaces Australian imports


Back on the shelves of supermarkets in South Korea, US beef regained its popularity and has even outpaced sales of Australian beef.


On the first day of sales, US beef sales reached 50.1 tonnes on Thursday, (Nov 27) 33 per cent higher than the 37.3 tonnes originally anticipated, according to Korea's top three retailers.


E-Mart, Lottemart and Homeplus had decided to restock US beef early this week although they refrained from handling U.S. beef even after the ban was officially lifted in late June because they were afraid of a public backlash.


The three stores added that Australian beef came in second with sales reaching 45.2 tonnes, followed by 20.1 tonnes for local hanwoo beef.


South Korea banned all US beef imports in Dec 2003 after a mad cow case was confirmed in Washington state on the West Coast. It allowed imports of boneless cuts in April, 2007, but again stopped all quarantine inspections in October after backbones packages were discovered among imports. At the time backbones were classified as a banned material.


Following this, Seoul and Washington signed a revised sanitation agreement in April that allows most beef cuts to be imported with the exception of specified risk materials that include such parts as tonsils, and certain parts of cattle intestines. All beef shipped to South Korea must be from cattle under 30 months old.


Meanwhile, experts said that the arrival of cheap US meat has triggered 20-50 per cent price cuts in both Australian and hanwoo meat as well as a lowering of prices for pork.


South Korean consumers generally like US meat more than Australian imports since US beef may cost slightly less at stores. Hanwoo beef usually costs 2-3 times more than US meat.

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