Tamara Heim displaying a meat product at a retail outlet during the trip.

For Tamara Heim, trips like the one she took late this past year are great for building relationships in countries that are major importers of US beef.

Heim, from the Logan area, and Dan Hanrahan, of Cumming, are members of the Iowa Beef Industry Council (IBIC) and represented the interest of Iowa beef farmers during a meat mission to Japan and South Korea in mid-November 2018.

This is Heim’s third time in three years traveling to this part of the country as part of the IBIC.

As for Hanrahan, this is his first time on a meat mission as an IBIC member. Other commodity partners were along on the trip, too.

“It was very educational for me and it was nice to get a chance to go with Tamara who has been on meat missions before,” Hanrahan said of the trip.

The IBIC office is located in Ames. The Council dedicates itself to expanding consumer demand for beef, strengthening beef’s position in the global marketplace and improving producer profitability, it states in the “About Us” section of their website.

According to a January 2 press release on the IBIC website, Japan is currently the number one export for beef products.

And right behind them? You guessed it, South Korea.

Therefore, missions like this one are great learning experiences beneficial to both the country visited and US beef industry, said Janine Moore, chairperson of the IBIC Board of Directors.

“The goal is to gain a better understanding of how the meat industry fits into these countries and how US beef can fill some of their needs,” Moore said.

Heim said the group met with the top three beef processors in Japan and with reps from the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF).

Hanrahan said they visited the US Embassy in Japan and South Korea and made stops at various retail stores in both of the countries, too.

During the course of the conversations with these various individuals, one major idea struck Hanrahan the most.

“A lot of my impressions on the conversations are on, number one, the emphasis that both the Japanese and Koreans consumers place on quality,” he said. “That was really eye opening for me.”

Hanrahan also said that he was surprised how familiar both the countries were with Iowa communities, naming specifically some of those towns.

Heim explained some of the reasoning behind why these two countries are continuing to increase their import of US beef.

For example, in Japan, the consumer is looking for a leaner beef compared to their traditional domestic Wagyu, which is highly marbleized and fatty.

“The Japanese consumer is looking for something that is leaner but still high quality,” Heim explained.

Due to the Korean diet becoming more westernized and the average annual income growing by $10,000, on average, South Korea is in a “meat boom.”

These are just a few of the factors for them being the top importers and thus, why it is important to continue to build and maintain relationships with these countries.

And even though Heim is a “seasoned vet,” in a way, of meat mission trips, she still learns something new every time.

That is what she enjoys about traveling around to different countries. The trips are also about building trust with the importing countries.

“By visiting them year after year, you can continue giving them confidence that you are providing them with a high quality product,” Heim explained.

There are usually two or three trips a year made to different countries across the globe.

Usually, a couple members of the IBIC Board of Directors or staff take part in those trips, said Heim.

Heim hopes to continue participating in these trips, traveling to other countries and learning more about how the US meat industry fits into them and how the United States can start or continue fulfilling some of their needs.

The trips are led by the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) and coordinated with the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF).