ISRAEL - USMEF recently participated in an event celebrating the return of US beef to Israel, where it is available for commercial distribution to restaurants, hotels and supermarkets following an agreement signed earlier this year between USDA and the Israeli Veterinary Services.
The US beef celebration, funded by the USDA Market Access Programme (MAP) and the Beef Checkoff Programme, was held in Tel Aviv at the residence of US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro.
Israel, which had been closed to US beef since the December 2003 BSE case, re-opened in January to US beef products that meet Israel’s requirements for kosher certification. The first significant shipment came from WR Reserve, located in Hastings, Nebraska. The company first had to comply with an inspection process that included visits from Israeli government regulators and USDA inspectors.
There is optimism that the US can gain some of the market share in Israel, said Monty Brown, USMEF representative in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, who spoke at the event.
“There is a strong willingness by some local restaurant owners to put US beef on their menus, but all of them feel they will need training, and USMEF will step in and assist with that,” said Mr Brown. “Distributors, retailers, and HRI establishments will need to be educated on the attributes of US beef, and be shown that there are high-value cuts like the flatiron that can be produced from the forequarter and successfully added to menus.”
More than 150 people attended the US beef event, which featured a dinner where cuts of Nebraska-produced chilled US Black Angus were served. Israeli importers, retailers and hotel and restaurant operators in attendance had face-to-face discussions with US representatives about US beef products. David Lau, Chief Rabbi of Israel, along with officials from the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Health – organizations that were key contacts in meeting Israeli health and kosher standards – also participated.
Media coverage of the event was very positive. In addition to the print journalists, a number of food bloggers and local social media posters lauded the quality of the US beef served at the dinner. A video of the event can be found online.
Nebraska Lt. Governor Mike Foley and Director of Agriculture Greg Ibach were in attendance. Mr Foley expressed confidence in US beef.
“I’m so thrilled to be in Israel to celebrate the arrival of high-quality beef from my home state of Nebraska,” said Mr Foley. “US beef, especially Nebraska beef, is known as the best in the world, and I’m sure that Israelis will soon agree.”
Shapiro, who worked with USDA and Nebraska officials to help get the shipment of US beef into the country, told his guests he is hopeful that it was the first of many.
“This development marks yet another milestone in our government-to-government cooperation and one which further strengthens the economic ties between our nations,” said Shapiro.
The arrival of the product and subsequent celebration kicked off a series of meetings organized by the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) in Tel Aviv to begin marketing US beef.
“In the coming weeks, exporter WR Reserve will meet with Israeli hotel owners, leading chefs and beef distributors to discuss the branding and marketing of US beef in Israel,” Mr Brown said. “Marketing will first focus on high-end butcher shops, restaurants and hotels, but could later expand to other vendors. FAS-Tel Aviv and USMEF will support this effort as needed.”
Mr Brown noted that US beef exports to the Israeli market are somewhat limited due to a quota on chilled beef imports. Still, officials are expecting an additional 100 metric tons of US beef to be imported to Israel by the end of the year. FAS-Tel Aviv estimates that sales of US beef to Israel could reach $16 million in 2017.
According to USDA, $433 million of beef products were imported by Israel in 2015, with more than 90 per cent coming from South America and Europe.
TheCattleSite News Desk