Educating consumers in Central America about the advantages and quality of U.S. pork, USMEF sponsored a special event in Costa Rica organized by the Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) in partnership with Weber International. Funded by the National Pork Board, the promotional effort focused on U.S. pork’s versatility and shared methods of cooking pork cuts at low temperatures.
 
“Barbecue Fest Costa Rica,” held over two days at Centro Comercial Multi Plaza in San Jose, included a grilling competition featuring 24 teams. It was promoted through social media and on local television and attracted more than 3,500 people each day.
 
Gerardo Rodriguez, USMEF regional marketing director for Mexico, Central America and the Dominican Republic, described it as a perfect opportunity to promote U.S. pork in a market that is small but promising. Costa Rica – along with Panama, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala – is part of a collection of countries that imported a record amount of U.S. pork last year. Exports to Central America in 2018 increased 16% year-over-year in volume to 86,031 metric tons (mt) and 12% in value to $201.7 million. Exports to Costa Rica are off to an especially strong start in 2019, with volume through February doubling from a year ago to 1,400 mt and value up 76% to just under $4 million.
 
“We are working hard to continue the momentum that has been built for U.S. pork in Central America, and one way we are doing that is reaching out to consumers to educate them on the many ways they can prepare and serve U.S. pork dishes,” said Rodriguez. “Sponsoring the Barbecue Fest in Costa Rica is a perfect example of the kind of event that brings these consumers together in one place. We had a booth set up in the competition area and had thousands of people come by to learn more about U.S. pork and its availability in Costa Rica. We also distributed tasting samples of grilled U.S. pork to let the consumers taste it for themselves, which is a very important part of the education we offer.”
 
The grilling competition consisted of Costa Rican teams cooking domestic beef brisket, domestic chicken and U.S. pork St. Louis ribs and cushion meat. As event sponsor, USMEF was given the stage for 45 minutes each day to spotlight U.S. pork. Corporate Chef German Navarrete shared information about U.S. pork production and the product’s nutritional benefits. He also gave a grilling demonstration using U.S. pork ribeye steaks and striploin chops, advising the audience how to produce tender, flavorful barbecue dishes.
 
Navarrete also answered questions from the audience about the nutrients provided by pork meat, food safety practices and the advantages of U.S. pork versus pork from other countries.
 
‘Barbecue Fest’ Builds on Momentum for U.S. Pork in Costa Rica