The U.S. Meat Export Federation is hopeful that U.S. beef exports will rebound in Europe this summer.
Yuri Barutkin is USMEF’s representative in Europe. He says U.S. beef gained greater access to the European Union at the beginning of 2020 through a country-specific quota aimed at allowing more U.S. product to enter the EU at zero duty. But with most U.S. beef cuts traditionally consumed in Europe’s foodservice and hospitality sectors, the U.S. industry struggled to fully capitalize on the revised quota due to widespread restrictions on restaurant traffic, tourism and business travel.
“Europe was one of the hardest hit areas in the world,” said Barutkin. “The sector that was affected the most was foodservice and the tourist sector where U.S. beef in Europe sold the most.”
Barutkin says a silver lining to this situation is that European distributors made more U.S. beef available to the retail sector – in both online platforms and traditional outlets – where it captured the attention of European consumers looking for higher-end items to prepare at home.
“We have mobilized our resources to sell more product in online retail outlets and more and more portion-controlled products being developed that allow volume to be directed to the traditional brick and mortar outlets,” said Barutkin. “I think eventually foodservice will restore and we could preserve what we have achieved in the times of pandemic. Every effort to place U.S. beef product at retail – both online and off-line – will be there to stay.”
Barutkin expects Europe’s interest in retail U.S. beef cuts to continue to expand, especially with the summer grilling season approaching. As the region gradually eases restrictions on restaurant activity and travel, this presents broad-based growth opportunities for U.S. beef.