Beef Rules Set for China

USDA Posts Final Requirements for Exporting US Beef to China

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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The U.S. moved closer Monday to sending U.S. beef to China as USDA released the rules packers will have to meet to ship. (DTN file photo)

OMAHA (DTN) -- U.S. beef shipping to China will have to come from cattle that are under 30 months of age, are born in the U.S., Canada or Mexico, and are traceable back to a U.S. farm with a unique identifier.

Those were some of the main ground rules laid out Monday as the U.S. Department of Agriculture spelled out the specific requirements China expects for reopening its beef market to the U.S. for the first time since 2003. The release of the technical requirements marks some of the final steps for U.S. packers to send beef to China.

According to the North American Meat Institute, beef products processed after May 24 can be exported to China once a packing plant is approved by USDA as eligible to ship to China.

"The administration showed great leadership in reaching this deal with the Chinese government quickly and in negotiating such positive terms for access," said Meat Institute President and CEO Barry Carpenter. "The demand in China for high-quality U.S. beef is high, so opening the market offers great potential for our businesses and the U.S. economy as a whole."

Still, some final touches are necessary. U.S, exporters can start applying for approval to export through AMS and FSIS. Testing methodologies and standards need to be translated from Chinese to English for companies to use. Also, USDA needs a prenotification system in place for beef exports to China.

The Chinese market offers a different dynamic for the U.S. than when American beef producers were shut out in 2003. China now imports about $2.6 billion in beef from around the world, according to the North American Meat Institute. While the U.S. had been shut out of most of China, the U.S. Meat Export Federation shows the U.S. has exported beef to Hong Kong for more than a decade, and beef sales there reached $1.15 billion in 2014 before declining the past two years.

To ship beef to China, packers will have to meet some specific requirements:

-- Beef will have to come from cattle less than 30 months of age.

-- Cattle must be traceable to their U.S. birth farm with a specific identification tracker, or to the first place of residence or port of entry. USDA has specific standards for the identification tags for both the livestock and beef. Carcasses will have to be uniquely identified and controlled.

-- Beef must come from cattle born, raised and slaughtered in the U.S. or from cattle imported from Canada or Mexico that were either further raised or went direct to slaughter.

-- USDA has a specific list of chilled or frozen bone-in and deboned products eligible for export.

-- Exporters will have to ensure beef products do not contain any growth promotants, feed additives or other chemicals, including ractopamine that are prohibited by Chinese law. Any shipments with such prohibited substances will be rejected, returned to the U.S. or destroyed.

The agreement was part of a U.S.-China 100-day action plan announced May 11 by the secretaries of Commerce and Treasury.

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Chris Clayton