The consumption of Indiana and U.S. pork in Mexico is growing, and it’s not by accident. Three years ago the U.S. Meat Export Federation launched a campaign to improve Mexican imports of pork and there is funding help from the Indiana Corn and Soybean checkoffs, and the national Pork Checkoff, among others.
“They did some preliminary research a couple of years ago and then they’ve done it again and consumption has gone up 2 or 3 percentage points more pounds of pork per family or unit for that two year period,” Maple told HAT. “We thought that was very good.”
Mexico produces over half of the pork it uses but demand is rising and they cannot keep up with that demand themselves.
“That’s correct,” Maple said. “They consume a lot of pork and they also export a lot of pork. It’s interesting that United States pork can go down there and they can re-package it and export it someplace else. They have free trade agreements with most countries and there might be a country that we can’t ship to, but they can repackage it and it could end up in a country that we can’t ship to.”
More pork consumption is good for Indiana corn and soybean farmers who grow the feed for Indiana hogs.
“The campaign that they’re using to promote pork is fascinating because they’re really pushing pork but they’re not necessarily saying it is United States pork but the U.S. is funding that promotion. If we sell more pork down there we’re going to sell more corn and soybeans to Indiana hog and livestock farmers to use to promote that pork down there.”
“It could have been pork from my farm and that was exciting to see,” said Maple, who represented Indiana Pork on the trip hosted by the Indiana soybean and corn checkoff organizations. “Exports are an important market for our pork products and to see boxes and boxes of U.S. pork being sold in Mexican markets and grocery stores was great.”
Helping Mexican homemakers between the ages of 25 and 45 view pork as a preferred mealtime choice is the goal of the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) campaign, funded by a coalition that includes ISA and ICMC in addition to Illinois Soybean Association, United Soybean Board, the Pork Checkoff and the USDA Market Access Program (MAP).
“The people of Mexico currently consume about 35 pounds of pork per person each year,” said Tom Griffiths, member of ISA’s livestock committee from Kendallville, Ind. who is ISA’s representative at USMEF meetings. “When you compare that to other markets, like the United States (about 46 pounds) and China (84 pounds), we see opportunity.”
While Mexico is about 65 percent self-sufficient in pork production, the United States supplies the lion’s share of imports, about 90 percent, and is well-positioned to gain from a growth in Mexican pork consumption, since the Mexican pork industry does not have the capacity to fully satisfy increased demand.
“The beauty of this campaign is that it benefits all participants,” said Chad Russell, USMEF regional director for Mexico, Central America and the Dominican Republic. “Historically, many Mexican consumers have not viewed pork as their first protein choice. We are fostering the image of pork as a delicious center-of-the-plate option for daily meals served in the home.”
The USMEF pork campaign includes national television ads as well as mass transit ads. In addition, in-store point-of-sale materials and recipes have been deployed in approximately 500 supermarkets. While portions of the campaign are national, the supermarket elements are focused on the large metropolitan areas of Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara.
The feedback USMEF is receiving from consumers and importers alike indicates that the campaign is working. USMEF commissioned a baseline consumer survey just before the multi-year campaign started in August 2011.
Some key results of the second year anniversary survey indicated an increase to 53.2 percent from 45.3 percent of the target homes consuming pork at least once a week; a near doubling of consumers’ positive perceptions that pork is healthy (58 percent versus 34 percent), and a 9 percent increase (88 percent versus 79 percent) of the target homes preparing pork at home.
“Having these survey results from year-to-year allows us to show real value from our checkoff investments,” said Griffiths. “When you add those with the increased export numbers to Mexico, it’s a very compelling story.”
U.S. pork exports to Mexico posted very strong results in early 2014, despite concerns about tight supplies and rising U.S. meat prices. Through February, pork exports to Mexico were 16 percent ahead of last year’s pace in terms of volume (113,677 metric tons) and 21 percent higher in value ($222.3 million), according to USDA data compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF).
“With the tightening supplies of U.S. pork, we were able to address the concerns of some of our Mexican customers during the trip,” said Nick Maple. “I think it helped having a pork producer tell them personally about some of the issues we are having on our farms that are causing this to happen and explain when they might see more pork availability down the road.”
Source: ICGA and ISA
Pictures: ICGA and ISA