Joel Haggard, the association’s senior vice-president of its Asia-Pacific office, in Hong Kong, told GlobalMeatNews that, for the past year or so, “there’s a kind of a ‘meat boom’ happening; what we’re seeing is more outlets trying to do business with beef on their menus.” He added that a “robust” economic growth was fuelling diner interest.
Last month (March), the USMEF director in Taiwan, Davis Wu, told Taiwanese media that he was expecting the value of US beef imports to the island to jump 25% to US$511.9 million this year (2018), year-on-year. They increased by 20% the previous year, he said.
Taiwan’s economy has experienced an uptick in the past year – according to the Taiwanese government, it grew 2.86% in 2017, 1.36% higher than 2016 growth. It is expected to maintain this level of growth in 2018.
Local beef production is negligible, and Taiwan imports almost all its beef, with the biggest shares going to the US (in the lead), New Zealand and Australia. Last year, the US offloaded 44,800 tonnes of beef (including variety meats) to Taiwan where it dominates the restaurant and hotel sectors, which tend to use higher-quality cuts (fresh or chilled meats) than supermarkets.
“The dining segment are big users of US beef in terms of volume. It’s not just steaks – it’s items like short ribs, shoulder cuts, those are two that are doing quite well,” said Haggard. “In Taiwan we’ve seen really good numbers on our chilled beef exports. In terms of cuts, that ranges from steak cuts, and also to what we call Asian cuts, or Korean cuts – this would be short ribs beef ribs often, especially in Taiwan, they cut the bone out and then they’ll slice it thinly and they’ll serve it either in Korean BBQ or hotpot.”
The foundation of this growth is the urban Taiwanese preference for dining out – obvious in the density of restaurants and the lack of kitchen space available in city apartments. A study last year (2017) by Mastercard ranked Taiwan fourth in dining out spending in east and south-east Asia, spending a monthly average of US$237 – which was 44% higher than the year before.
Taiwan’s fondness for beef can go to extremes – the world’s most expensive beef noodle soup is found in Taipei. At Niu Ba Ba (or ‘Father Cow’ in English) a bowl of its ‘presidential’ soup costs Taiwan New Dollars TWD10,000 (US$341). Owner Tony Wang told GlobalMeatNews that he often sources his beef from the US because it is good quality and “there is a lot of choice in terms of cuts” –crucial to making his sought-after noodle soups.