A total of 11 Japanese officials and staff got a first-hand look at U.S. beef production Friday.
Representatives of the National Cattlemenâ€™s Beef Association and the Kansas Livestock Association were among a group of beef industry leaders that welcomed a delegation of Japanese officials to Kansas Friday.
KLA member Tracy Brunner serves on the NCBA Executive Committee and is chairman of the Kansas Beef Council. Dee Likes is executive vice president of KLA, one of NCBA's largest state affiliates. Both were on hand as 11 Japanese officials and staff got a first-hand look at U.S. beef production.
The delegation also met with officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), representatives of the American Meat Institute and Tyson Foods, and several members of the media. They toured a cow-calf operation near Tonganoxie, Kan., as well as Emporia Processing, a packing facility located in Emporia.
Brunner, a cattleman from Ramona, Kan., said the face-to-face visit with Japanese officials offered a great opportunity to exchange information and demonstrate the extensive safety measures taken by the U.S. beef industry.
â€œIt was an honor to welcome this delegation to Kansas,â€ Brunner said. â€œOur door is always open, and we want the Japanese delegation to have access to all the information it needs to make informed decisions about trade with the United States.â€
Prior to closing its market to the United States in December 2003, Japan was the largest importer of U.S. beef. Beef exports to Japan reached $1.4 billion in 2003 alone.
Brunner said his message to Japanese officials remains very simple: safeguards used in the United States since 1989 have prevented the spread of BSE, and this rare disease does not present a human health threat or food safety concern.
"The number-one priority for America's cattle producers has always been to provide the safest beef in the world," Brunner says. "Our livelihood depends on it. I am proud to see the beef I produce served in homes around the world, including my own."
Likes noted that since discovery of a single case of BSE in Washington in 2003, the United States has engaged in the largest BSE surveillance effort ever undertaken by a single nation. In the past 88 weeks, USDA has tested a weekly average of more than 7,000 of the nation's highest-risk cattle for BSE - a total of over 600,000 head. Despite this extensive testing, the USDA has found only one additional case. These results validate the preventive measures taken by the U.S. beef industry long before BSE was first detected in the United States.
"We are by far the most proactive nation in history with regard to BSE prevention, and we are seeing the results of those actions today," Likes says. "These efforts have helped maintain a very high level of consumer confidence in beef in the United States, and we welcome every opportunity to share this same information with overseas consumers. Our commitment is to meeting the standards set by our customers and delivering high-quality, safe beef. Consumers, whether Japanese or American, can believe in U.S. beef."
Japan resumed limited imports of U.S. beef in December 2005, but closed the market again in January when a shipment of bone-in veal was mistakenly sent to Japan in violation of new export restrictions. Although there were no safety concerns with the veal shipment, USDA continues to investigate the situation and has assured Japan that the violation was an isolated incident.