Kickoff Event in Riyadh Marks Return of US Beef to Saudi Arabia

Wed, 04 Apr 2018

SAUDI ARABIA - Recognizing US beef’s return to Saudi Arabia, USMEF teamed with the US Embassy in Riyadh to organize a "US Beef Kickoff" event at the Radisson Blu hotel.

More than 100 importers, foodservice operators, chefs and retailers attended the activity, which was funded by the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) and the Beef Checkoff Program. USMEF is a contractor to the Beef Checkoff.


United Source One Sales Director Terry McDonnell addresses the US Beef Kickoff event in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia [Photo: USMEF]

Saudi Arabia was a promising market for US beef exports before trade was suspended in 2012 following confirmation of a BSE case in California. The suspension was lifted in 2016, but it has taken time for US suppliers to re-enter the market.

"The event proved to be very successful, underscoring the high level of interest in US beef following the lifting of the recent BSE-related ban," said Eliane Elia, USMEF representative in the Middle East. "It was not only a celebration, it was also a perfect venue for educating our guests about the excellent quality of US beef and the many ways it can be featured on restaurant menus and in foodservice applications."


Thomas A. Gugler, president of the World Association of Chefs’ Societies, performs a US beef cutting demonstration at the event in Saudi Arabia [Photo: USMEF]

Nina Bakht Halal, USMEF representative in the Middle East, and Alan Hallman, agricultural attaché at the US Embassy in Riyadh, welcomed guests with an overview of the US beef industry. They also answered questions about Saudi Arabia’s beef import requirements, the supply of U.S. beef available in Saudi Arabia and the number of US beef plants approved for export. Videos on USMEF’s history, mission and services, as well as on US beef production practices, were also shown.

Speakers included Terry McDonnell, operating partner of United Source One, an international leader in the export of prime beef and other high-quality US food products, as well as Mohammad Ansar Kidwai, business development manager at Gulfwest, one of the major food importers and distributors in Saudi Arabia.

"Those in the industry attending the kickoff event were pleased that the ban on US beef was finally lifted and are looking forward to expand US beef in the market," said Elia. "They are aware that the Saudi Arabian population is growing, and that this growth will lead to demand for high-quality products like US beef."

Chef Thomas A. Gugler, president of the World Association of Chefs’ Societies, and his assistant Mohamed Ezzeldin Abou Bakr, demonstrated cutting and cooking techniques for various US beef cuts, including tenderloin, striploin, ribeye, short ribs, ground beef, brisket, top sirloin, topside, inside skirt and flank.

"The chefs did a fantastic job of communicating key US beef messages such us marbling, meat structure and profitability," said Elia. "They also explained to participants how to maximize the utility of different beef cuts, along with respective cooking applications for each cut. The cooking demonstration was interesting and interactive. Several chefs from the region were involved in the session, which was followed by an actual sampling of US beef."

Attendees were also treated to a lunch highlighting versatile US beef dishes.

Another guest of note was Christopher Henzel, Chargé d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Riyadh. He thanked all parties who worked hard on lifting the import ban and emphasized the important role events such as the US Beef Kickoff play in reassuring customers about the safety and premium quality of US beef.

The US Beef Kickoff was also broadcast on Saudi TV news, with a segment featuring Hallman explaining that US beef is now available in the market. He added that eligible supplies of US beef will increase in the upcoming months with a growing number of US cattle complying with the export verification program requirements for Saudi Arabia.