DES MOINES, Iowa — Take a bite and taste the smoke of the curry, how crisp-tender the cabbage is, the piquancy that a bit of onion and garlic add.

And the meat? Cooked to perfection, not tough, just the right amount of tender, taking on the flavors of the spices and veggies, yet with a unique taste and texture. Not a cut you immediately identify, but there’s something familiar about it.

Just how you like your pig uterus.

“It’s a fundamentally different opportunity,” said Dr. Dermot Hayes.

Hayes was speaking about pork exports and the outlook for exports, during a session at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines.

He related a story about a recent trip to China — as the Pioneer chair in agribusiness at Iowa State University, Hayes makes regular trips abroad — and a meal he shared there.

“I was delighted because I recognized almost everything. For me, the thing on top was just a decoration,” he said, citing a photo he provided of a platter of sliced chicken, adorned with a cooked cock’s comb at the top.

“I was with a very well-educated woman. She did her MBA in France, her parents are in the Chinese military, very wealthy, very well-educated and that’s a delicacy,” Hayes said.

His presentation was about the impact of the world economic situation and trade, specifically U.S. pork exports to different parts of the world.

China offers new opportunities and especially for exports of cuts that Americans discard or that never make it to the U.S. market, Hayes said. Such an approach would benefit both the U.S. hog farmer and processors, as well as U.S. consumers.

“These markets have a different potential. We could actually split that carcass and add value to what the Europeans are starting to call the ‘fifth quarter’ and reduce the price of producing hams and loins for the U.S.,” Hayes said.

He said an understanding of the cuts that are preferred in China, different from those demanded by other markets, such as Japan, which uses loins and tenderloins, is needed.

“In China, they are bored with the big pieces of loin and tenderloin. They don’t want those. They will pay more for chicken feet than chicken breast. If you give them a fish, the best part is the head. The person who is the most important person at the table gets to eat the fish head or the chicken head or whatever. If we can just take advantage of that, we can take the pieces of the animal that we are not fully utilizing now, sell them for a high price and reduce the cost of loins and tenderloins sold to the domestic U.S. consumer,” he said.

Hayes said there is more potential value to be gained by taking a new look at variety meats, as compared to muscle cuts.

“We have weekly data on exports, and there is an amazingly strong correlation between exports and live hog prices. When I separate the data out and say OK, what happens when we export more muscle meat, I think every thousand tons added five cents to that,” he said.

Boosting exports of variety meats, including offal, accomplishes multiple goals — it adds value at the head of the supply chain, it satisfies foreign customers’ taste demands and it reduces waste for processors.

“When you look separately at variety meats, the effect is four times greater. What you are doing there is when you add a product that would otherwise have been rendered, you are creating a lot of value in the animal, much more value than exporting a loin because when you export a loin, you are taking it away from the U.S. consumer,” Hayes said. “Whereas if you add value to a stomach or a foot, then it creates new value that wasn’t there before.”