(ECNS) -- A cooking class based on grain-fed Canadian beef was held in Beijing on Sunday as Canada's latest effort to reach out to Chinese consumers.
Organized by Canada Beef, the class was joined by the Honorable Deron Bilous, Minister of Alberta Economic Development and Trade, and coorganized by the Canadain Embassy.
"China is very important to us, and is Alberta's second largest export market," Bilous told ECNS.cn before the class. He and his delegation are on a trade mission to several Chinese cities to strengthen partnerships.
"Alberta beef is the best tasting and tenderest you can buy," he added.
Canada Beef is a non-profit organization of beef producers and trade and industrial professionals aiming to bring Canadian beef to a larger population globally.
"Canada's cold winters are ideal for the very best cattle breeds," said Canada Beef China Director Polly Zhao before giving the cooking demonstration. "These cattle, fed on grain, have more fat and taste more tender than grass-fed equivalents."
At ABC Cooking Studio Indigo Store, over 20 consumers and media personnel joined the minister in cooking steaks, as instructed by Ritz Carlton Executive Chef Ryan Liu. They had the chance to make their own beef burgers followed by Zhao's demonstration.
Canada Beef has been boosting consumer engagement in many countries to promote its brand, such as hosting Canada Beef Festival in Beijing last November.
Canadian beef regained access to the Chinese market in 2011, when the country agreed to open its borders to boneless cuts of Canadian beef from animals under 30 months old. Sales volume has been increasing since then as China's growing middle class pushes up demand for imported beef. Exports stood at 32.870 tons in 2015, up by 381 percent from 2014.
However, this number is still small compared with that of China and other countries such as Australia, Uruguay, Brazil and New Zealand.
"China is Canada's second largest market for beef exports. Ten percent of exported Canadian beef go to local kitchens here. But that's less than 5 percent of market share in China, which means there is huge potential to tap," Zhao said.
She added that what Canada wants is not only a larger slice of the pie, but to build a brand of high-end, premium beef among Chinese buyers.
"Most imported beef is grass-fed, as many Chinese culinary methods such as stewed or marinated beef don't require high-end produce. We want to provide local consumers with a premium option as Canadian grain-fed beef is its best in the world," Zhao explained.
Canadian beef is sold at more than 100 stores in China, including a dozen Sam's Club and Ole's in big cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hangzhou and Dalian. But Bilous said his delegation is talking with Chinese officials to increase availability and reach out to more cities in the country.
Alberta is a western province of Canada, and is the sencond largest by GDP. It's also the country's largest cattle farming province.
Canada is the eighth largest beef exporter in the world. Forty-six percent of its beef is exported to over 100 countries.