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‘Korean Beef to Survive Onslaught of Foreign Imports’

Posted January. 01, 2009 10:18,   


“Hanwoo,” or Korean beef, is simply excellent. The taste is clearly different. Though hanwoo farmers will have difficulty for a time due to the opening of the Korean beef market, I believe they will survive banking on the perseverance unique to the Korean cow. We will also do our best to develop better quality hanwoo breeds.”

These are the words of cattle researcher Baek Bong-hyeon, 56, who was serving hay to cows and checking the labels on their ears.

A Dong-A Ilbo reporter yesterday visited a cattle barn run by the National Institute of Animal Science under the Rural Development Administration in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, under freezing temperatures just ahead of New Year’s Day.

As a veteran researcher who has studied Korean cattle for 30 years, Baek was full of confidence as he spoke.

The year 2009, the year of cow in the Chinese zodiac, will likely hold higher importance to Korean cattle experts like Baek. The Korean domestic market will serve as a battleground between domestic and U.S. beef, whose import was resumed last year.

The institute’s staff members say they are determined to increase the price competitiveness of Korean beef by stepping up research.

The root of Baek’s confidence lies in the fact that hanwoo is an inherently excellent cattle breed.

Nevertheless, the institute is redoubling efforts. Since 2006, it has conducted a project to further improve the quality of hanwoo breeds by differentiating intramuscular fat hanwoo from high quality meat, and growth hanwoo that produces larger amounts of beef.

The institute’s test center in Pyeongchang County, Gangwon Province, is growing 100 heads of cattle each of high quality hanwoo suitable for the two types.

The project seeks to develop breeds catering to consumer tastes over the next 15 years. “We will seek to develop hanwoo type A high in protein, B high in fat, C with good flavor of lean meat with short ribs, and D with tasteful marbling.”

The institute also plans to increase interest and step up research on the traditional Korean cow breeds “chikso” and “heukwoo (black cow),” which requires recovery and improvement of breeds due to their plunging numbers.

Fellow researcher Yang Byeong-cheol said, “The quality of heukwoo beef from Jeju Island is so excellent that people in the Joseon Dynasty used to serve the beef to their king.”

“We need to pay attention to the cow not only for the preservation of animal species but also for its marketability.”

The institute also seeks to spread its cattle growing method by using wild plants to ease the rising cost of animal feed.

Baek said, “2009 is the year of the cow but farmers will face growing difficulty due to the flood of imported beef. However, I hope the year will be a period of ‘hanwoo love’ when Koreans start to consider traditional hanwoo as a proud national legacy.”