The Japanese market reopening to U.S. beef and beef products from cattle verified to be 20 months of age or younger is seen as highly positive news for the cattle industry, including Texas and Oklahoma.
This recent announcement ended a months-long dispute that resulting in shutting down a top destination for high-quality beef and beef variety meats produced by the United States worth about $1.7 billion a year.
"Loss of these exports to Japan which historically have added about $65 per head to the value of fed cattle left a big hole in our pockets," says Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) President Dick Sherron of Beaumont, Texas. "TSCRA has been engaged for well over a year now in getting this market reopened to our product, and we're very pleased that we will have access again to one of our former premier export markets."
Sherron hopes the next step will be getting Japan to accept meat from cattle more than 20 months of age, resuming U.S. seedstock exports to all countries, opening South Korea to all beef, and a full reopening of all countries that closed their trade because of bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
Japan closed its borders to U.S. beef after BSE was reported in Washington State on Dec. 23, 2003. The Japanese market was briefly re-opened in late 2005, but closed again this past January because there was a shipment of veal steaks that contained bone materials.
As was the case with the initial reopening of the Japanese market in December 2005, for U.S. cattlemen to meet export requirements into Japan, cattle must come through a Quality System Assessment (QSA), which is part of the Beef Export Verification (BEV) program run by USDA. QSA stretches from the farm to the packer, and ensures beef is source and age verified. Texas Cattle Feeders Association in Amarillo is coordinating a QSA program to meet the requirements.
U.S. producers can apply for approval of their own USDA QSA Program for age verification or have their cattle enrolled in one of the approved age verification programs, listed online at www.ams.usda.gov/1sg/arc/qsap.htm or also at processverified.usda.gov.
TSCRA is a 129-year-old trade organization. Members manage about 4.9 million cattle on 66 million acres of range and pasture, mainly in Texas and Oklahoma.