The rich beef culture of Nebraska and the world's gambling capital were the perfect pair last week as several hundred leaders of Macau's food service and game industry gathered to sample expertly prepared U.S. beef at The U.S. Meat Export Federation’s Second Annual Great American Barbecue - Nebraska in Macau.
One of the special administrative regions of China - Hong Kong being the other - Macau has a small population of just over 500,000 that pales in comparison to its visitor load, expected to reach 30 million this year. But, as the world's gambling hub with 2013 revenue exceeding $40 billion - dwarfing U.S. gambling revenue - it is a magnet for high rollers who love a good meal at any price.
Nebraska Beef Council Director Myron Danner (r.) at the Great American Barbecue – Nebraska in Macau
Funded by the Nebraska Beef Council, The Great American Barbecue - Nebraska in Macau was the second annual Nebraska beef barbecue event in the territory, and with approximately 200 attendees it topped last year's inaugural event by more than a third, providing testimony to the growing interest in beef from Nebraska and the United States.
"Macau is a vacation destination - the only legalized gaming spot in China - where people from Mainland China go for recreation and can enjoy many options for fine dining" said Myron Danner, Nebraska Beef Council director, who attended the event. "While U.S. beef is locked out of mainland China, we're getting great exposure in the region through Macau."
The invitation-only event drew key representatives from a wide range of Macau food and beverage enterprises, including chefs and senior managers from all the gaming and hotel properties, plus end-users from independent restaurant and retail chains.
"These were the players," said Danner. "These were the people who import the beef and distribute it to restaurants. Many sent executive chefs. The quality of food at the event was as good as you'd find anywhere, and the exposure was phenomenal. Our unique Nebraska high quality beef has struck a chord in a market where extravagant entertainment options are many."
The outdoor event was held at the Hard Rock Hotel Macau, one of several hotel properties situated in the Cotai Strip's City of Dreams complex. U.S. beef packers and exporters donated Nebraska-harvested beef cuts for the event, ranging from whole roasted prime ribeyes to chilled chuck flap tail seared tataki.
U.S. beef is shipped to Macau through Hong Kong, as there is no formal protocol for direct trade. Macau food safety authorities allow U.S. beef into Macau when accompanied by a USDA health certificate issued for Hong Kong.
While the exact volume of U.S. beef exported to Macau through Hong Kong is unknown, according to Hong Kong re-export statistics it is estimated that 542 metric tons of U.S. beef valued at $6.7 million were shipped to Macau during the first 10 months of 2013 - a 57 percent increase over the same period of 2012.
"U.S. beef shipments to Macau are set to grow in future years as Macau offers more entertainment beyond gaming," says John Lam, USMEF's regional programs manager based in Hong Kong. "Macau is a special administrative region of China, and Chinese central authorities have recently encouraged the territory to increase non-gaming offerings to mainland visitors."
Major infrastructure improvements are expected to drive more mainland visitors to Macau in the years ahead. The $10 billion Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai Bridge is expected to open in 2016, replacing an hour-long ferry ride on the South China Sea with a 20-minute drive. Macau boasts 35 casinos, and another eight large-scale properties are in development, including resorts being built by Nevada-based gaming companies.