Uruguayan beef, including tripe, finds favor in China as trade expands

As steaks sizzle on the grill in a steakhouse in Wuhu, Anhui province, a screen on the wall above shows videos of vast grasslands and herds of cattle in Uruguay, where the beef is from.

As economic, trade and agricultural cooperation between China and Uruguay continue to deepen, Gabriel Martin, the Uruguayan businessman who owns the steakhouse, has brought steaks from Uruguay to the dining tables of many Chinese families and restaurants.

Martin arrived in Shanghai in 2012 to study. Seeing China’s vast consumer market and huge potential, he began exploring the beef trade in China.

Back then, Uruguayan football was better known in China than the country’s beef. To start his business, Martin ferried samples of Uruguayan beef to supermarkets and restaurants across Shanghai by bicycle.

It took him eight months to land his first client. In 2017, Martin and his wife Zhang Jin returned to her hometown of Wuhu, where they opened the steakhouse and continued with the beef trade.

Proud of the quality of Uruguayan beef, Martin said that as China’s economic level continues to improve, people’s demand for quality food is also increasing.

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Uruguay.

Last month the two countries signed cooperation documents related to areas including trade and investment, the digital economy and green development.

Uruguay also signed five new protocols with China on market access for meat products, including one that allows it to export beef tripe to China.

Many Chinese customers favor beef tripe, a special delicacy especially suitable for hotpot, Martin said, adding that the new protocol can help expand supply and lower prices.

It is expected to add about $150 million a year to the revenue of Uruguayan meat processors by helping Uruguay export cattle byproducts.

In September, Martin imported 10 containers of beef from Uruguay and shipped them to major cities in China. A second steakhouse, in Zhengzhou, Henan province, is in the works and there are also plans for an online business.

According to data from the General Administration of Customs, the volume of trade between China and Uruguay reached $7.44 billion last year, 60 times the figure in 1988.

Martin said that as cooperation between Uruguay and China continues to expand, he is becoming even more confident about the future of the beef trade in China.