Cattle in a field near Audubon.

Cattle in a field near Audubon.

A delegation of Iowa corn growers and livestock producers has just returned from a trade trip to South America. Kent Pruismann, who raises cattle in the northwest Iowa town of Rock Valley, says the Iowa Meat Trade Mission took them to Chile and Peru.

“We met a lot of folks down there that are interested in our product,” Pruismann says. “Our product is just starting to enter those countries. We’ve visited places that have begun importing U.S. beef and there are some restaurants down there that are beginning to serve U.S. beef.”

Pruismann says it was a learning experience for the Iowa delegation in how to market American beef in South America. “It’s been very well accepted down there, the taste and the quality has impressed those folks very much, from the folks I talked to,” Pruismann says. “We’re really comparing two completely different products. Their domestic product is basically a grass-fed product. It has a different taste. It’s quite chewy, as a matter of fact.” The South Americans offered the Iowans an impressive view of their packing plants, Pruismann says, especially Chile.

“Their meat processing industry — pork, chicken, beef — is very much more advanced than I had anticipated,” he says. “They’re very automated, a lot of robotics, sanitation is very high quality. I would say that Chile is today a competitor with the U.S. for meat exports.” The beef producers were joined on the trip by members of the Iowa Pork Producers Association and the Iowa Corn Promotion Board.

Trade between the U.S. and Chile has increased more than 330-percent since implementation of a free trade agreement in 2004. All remaining tariffs are to be phased out this year. Peru continues to be one of the fastest growing Latin American economies. Iowa exports to Peru have increased more than 750 percent since implementation of a similar trade agreement in 2009.

(Reporting by Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)