When I was in Japan in July for the Nebraska corn-fed beef mission with the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), we had the chance to visit a large and very nice supermarket. In that supermarket, it specifically partitioned out the different countries that the meat was from: U.S. beef in one section; Aussie beef right across the aisle; Japanese Wagyu in another section.
Knowing where the meat comes from is very important to the Japanese.
The grocery store sections have pictures of the farmers who raised the beef, along with video showing the facilities and the farm owners and workers.
Providing a way to trace our beef and pork sources back to the farm should be important to Americans.
USMEF has released a study assessing the impact of traceability and animal identification programs on the international market for red meat.
Conducted by researchers at Kansas State University, Colorado State University and Montana State University, the study assesses the potential impact on U.S. producers and processors of evolving thinking about animal ID and traceability in leading export markets and traceability systems that have already been put in place by other major beef and pork exporting countries.
The U.S. faces BSE-related product and age restrictions from a number of major importing countries (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Russia and Mexico) as well as restrictions from the European Union based on hormone use. In addition, China’s beef market remains closed to imports from the United States due to BSE-related restrictions.
The study – “Economic Assessment of Evolving Red Meat Export Market Access Requirements for Traceability of Livestock and Meat” – points out that the United States and India are the only two major beef exporters that do not already have mandatory traceability systems. Argentina, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Uruguay all have animal identification/traceability programs in place.
In addition to the traceability systems of exporting nations, the report, which was commissioned by USMEF on a contract awarded based on a request for proposal, provides an analysis of the domestic cattle traceability systems employed by selected major importers of U.S. beef. Of special note, Japan and Korea, among the highest value markets for U.S. red meat exports, have adopted mandatory traceability programs which could eventually lead to similar requirements being applied to imports.
The value of the research report was emphasized by Leann Saunders, president of IMI Global, a member of USMEF’s executive committee and chairperson of the USMEF working group on traceability.
“When you first consider the value of the export market to U.S. cattle and hog producers, with export value this July equating to $236.88 per head of fed cattle harvested and $59.35 per head for hogs – there is no denying the importance of exports for U.S. producers,” said Saunders. “As we have seen in the beef industry engaged in voluntary USDA PVP and QSA verification programs for countries like Japan and the EU – countries that have export verification requirements specific to animal identification and traceability – it can work effectively. Since we are currently exporting about 16 percent of total U.S. beef and variety meat production and 29 percent of pork, traceability is a form of insurance that would insulate American producers in the event that importing countries change their import requirements or in the event of an animal disease outbreak.”
Traceability is not only important to that Japanese housewife wanting safe, American red meat for her kids, but to the U.S. producer who can gain financial benefits from the traceability system.