I know it sounds cold. But protecting the Korean beef industry through silly measures as saying that boneless beef from the U.S. is safer than bone-in is bound to not last long. It sounded like a desperate charade and still does.
Full importation of U.S. beef will continue this month for the first time since 2003. Some farmers have known this to be inevitable and have taken to adapting their marketing strategies rather than protecting the old ways. Now, I predict, we are going to see some unique high quality Korean beef that can actually export well. There are a good many farmers who are turning to 100% organic farming. The rise in feed costs are making some farmers resort to grass farming. I don’t think they know it, but grass-farmed beef is becoming a demand market in the West. Another new innovation is “Garlic Beef,” where cows are fed whole bulbs of garlic. Marketers claim that the garlic in the beef has health benefits. I don’t know about that, but I think it’s a positive sign that the Korean beef producers are thinking more creatively.
The real enemy to the Korean beef farmers really hasn’t been the U.S. It’s been their own people. Restaurants and markets mislabel foreign beef as domestic. Korean Hanoo beef has a stellar reputation on the peninsula, and people are more willing to pay extra money for it. The government is finally going to crack down on this by adding 1,000 monitors across the country and giving stiff fines and prison time to violators.
Gord Sellar has some thoughtful comments on Koreans protesting the importation of U.S. beef. I’m inclined to agree with his points. It seems that the recent anger is how this was rushed through, and there aren’t enough safeguards in place in Korea to inspect the amount of imported beef coming in. Considering the number of beef recalls in the U.S. in the past few years, I’d be worried about that. I think my skeptical mood comes from the silly idea that taking the bones out of a cow gets rid of mad cow disease–which was the requirement the Korean government insisted on in previous years. So even though there is some legitimate “beef” with the American beef industry, which I have many, the past song and dance shows of the Korean government and media have helped them lose legitimacy when they actually have gotten around to talking about real threats.