By the Kansas Corn Commission

Beef tripe, lungs and lips aren't many American grocery lists but exports of these variety meats are growing in importance to U.S. producers.

While variety meats like tripe hold low value in the U.S., they bring top dollar in countries like Peru, according to the US Meat Export Federation.

U.S. Beef is gaining popularity with many South Americans, specifically in Peru where USMEF works to provide targeted advertisements and enhance demand for beef. Peru is the leading importer of beef variety meat in South America, averaging about 34 million pounds annually, of which 30-percent is sourced from the United States.

Tripe, livers, hearts and lungs are Peru's leading imported products.

Recognizing the value of exporting red meat, the Kansas Corn Commission was the first state checkoff to support the efforts of the USMEF over 30 years ago.

Building U.S. meat exports continues to be a key component in the commission's foreign market development efforts.

Dan Halstrom, USMEF'ssenior vice president in charge of global marketing, said the company builds markets for U.S. beef and products in numerous countries. Peruvians have become interested in U.S. beef tripe, thanks to checkoff program dollars at work creating value through marketing and advertisements.

"We go into markets and to try to give them information on what products work best with their culinary cuisine," Halstrom said. "Tripe is a specialty item in Peru. There could be 10 to 12 specifications on it for the culinary needs they have. That demand, in this case, was built from the ground up."

U.S. beef exports to Peru spiked 18 percent in volume and 48 percent in value in 2012 to 28.4 million pounds valued at $29.7 million. Those totals will almost certainly be eclipsed in 2013 as beef exports in the first seven months of the year are up 47 percent in volume and 12 percent in value to 26.8 million pounds, valued at $21.1 million.

Other examples include U.S. sliced beef tongue and lips. In the U.S., there is virtually no demand for beef lips, but as a variety meat, lips are worth nearly $5 per pound in Japan. In the U.S., the highest value possible would be $1.50 per pound. Beef livers are worth $.44 per pound in Egypt, versus $.15 in the U.S. market. Tripe is sent to Peru and Mexico at a value of $1 per pound, a number that would not exist without an export market for U.S. beef.

Kansas is a leader in beef production and grain production is key to raising cattle to a satisfactory market level. Kansas Corn has continually been a supporter of USMEF programs because of its ability to translate organizational efforts into real value for cattle and grain producers.

"Developing export markets for U.S. beef variety cuts is an opportunity to add value," Halstrom said. "We all know we have a declining cow herd for many years and we have to do everything possible to add and increase demand, which translates to adding value. Variety cuts may not all that glamorous but they are very much important in all those countries."