U.S. beef and pork products prominent in Cartagena

U.S. beef and pork products are prominent in retail facilities in Cartagena, Colombia.

Don Mason, U.S. Meat Export Federation’s project specialist in Colombia, has been helping develop the market for U.S. red meat in the country.

“The exciting thing about the last five years is noticing the change in the willingness of the Colombian retailers to make some changes and present our product in a more favorable fashion, and from a marketing standpoint, a more professional way,” he says.

He says the biggest growth opportunity has been with mid-sized retailers.

“We’ve been trying to figure out ways to help that retail sector, not just the large retailers, but what we call the middle ground of retailing, which is everything between the old traditional wet markets on up. We don’t really go into the wet markets at all because they don’t sell much U.S. product there. But, there are small- and medium-sized butcher shops all over the country and some of them are chains and most of them are connected with our importers, and so we work with our importers and we work with those butcher shops, and we help them figure out how they can up their game, if you well, from a technical standpoint with safety, processing, workflow and regulatory. We want to make sure that they’re complying with Colombian regulations and don’t get shut down because of some compliance issue. And then on the marketing side: how they presenting our product, how they’re portioning our product, how they’re packaging, what it looks like in the case. We want to help them out and we truly believe that we’re making some great headway with that middle ground of retailers,” he says. “At Fresmar for example, we’ve been working with them for quite a while now, trying to help them sort their way through some better efficiencies from a technical side of things, so that they’re as efficient as they can get. And then from a marketing standpoint, we want to help them present that product in a way that consumers want to come back. We want those butcher shops where U.S. product is being sold to be the butcher shops of choice of these folks. In Colombia, there’s still a lot of meat sold through wet markets, but they’re moving rapidly toward that middle ground of butcher shops, and we want to be there waiting for them with U.S. product.”

Mason, an Iowa native, was a pork producer in the state for 25 years. As project specialist he splits his time between Iowa and Colombia and says he’s learned about the complexities involved in getting that product from northwest Iowa, for example, into a market in Colombia.

“It’s exciting, complicated, and it’s work that has to be done. A lot of these things don’t happen without someone pushing. That’s what I would tell growers and producers back home that this is a way to get into a market and up the sales of U.S. Product,” he says.  

He says there are continued opportunities to grow the market for U.S. beef and pork.

Audio: Don Mason

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