The global market for quality protein is competitive and the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) is at work telling the quality and supply story for America's pork, beef and lamb producers. One tactic is the concept of a USMEF product showcase where buyers learn more about new products they can take back to their respective countries.

A recent product showcase held in Kansas City, Mo., offered potential buyers new ways to use pork, beef and lamb in their respective markets. In a media release from USMEF, Romagle Bastidas, trade manager for Grupo Alonzo, explains the value of the product showcase: "Now I can give more choices to my sales people. I have learned about many different cuts and different ways to come up with new center-of-the-plate items. Now I can think outside of the box."

Grupo Alonzo operates 24 companies in the Dominican Republic and imports anywhere from 10 to 40 containers per month of U.S. products including pork, beef and lamb. The organization operates the largest abattoir in the Caribbean along with a value-added sausage plant, provides red meat products to virtually every hotel in the Dominican Republic, and it sells meat at retail, according to USMEF.

Grupo Alonzo's Bastidas spent the week-long product showcase trip in the United States to visit feedlots, meat processing plants, the National Restaurant Association show and visited Kansas State University for a one-day program that familiarized participants with details about the U.S. meat grading and production system.

Funding for this market promotion effort came through the USDA Market Access Program, the Pork Checkoff and the Beef Checkoff.

For some buyers, this product showcase tour was their first U.S. visit and opened their eyes to different ways that fresh and frozen meat can be packaged and how they can offer their customers more options. Says Ana Maria Ordonez, UniSuper supermarkets, Guatemala: "This trip changes the way I buy [meat]. Understanding the different types of retail packages that are available means that I can now buy mixed containers, which will make it easier to sell more product."

For the 21 companies that displayed product for the showcase, the value of the interaction with global customers as important. Michael Warne, regional sales manager for Daniele Foods, Rhode Island, says: "This is probably the best small show for business leads I have been to in the last 15 years. It has been outstanding. We have managed to reach target markets that we've been looking to export to. These are quality buyers, and we have the products they're interested in."

Adds Dan Halstrom, USMEF senior vice president for global marketing and communications: "One of the primary missions for USMEF is to bring buyers and sellers together in an effort to create value. While we only hold the worldwide product showcase every other year, we do hold regional showcases."

The next regional showcase - USMEF's 4th Latin American Showcase - is set for July 16-17 in Lima, Peru.