Korean Cows Sip Herbal Tonics as Local Farms Fight U.S. Imports

SOUTH KOREA - For Lee Jong Chul, a consumer- products importer in Seoul, U.S. beef is a bargain at about 40 percent the price of South Korean cuts.
calendar icon 10 October 2007
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"I'm concerned about mad-cow disease, but I trust the government," Lee said as he bought some of the first U.S. beef imported by South Korea since an outbreak of the disease in Washington state in 2003. "They wouldn't have allowed the meat into the country if it contained anything dangerous."

Consumers such as Lee are shrugging off concerns over U.S. beef, suggesting Korea may soon recover its status as the third- largest importer of the meat. A free-trade agreement awaiting approval by lawmakers in both countries would phase out a 40 percent tariff, giving American beef another boost.

Farmers threatened by low-cost competition are brewing herbal tonics for their animals and offering cut-price direct sales in a bid to hold onto their share of the world's most expensive beef market. Not all of Korea's 200,000 beef growers will endure.

"Who will buy expensive beef when there's cheaper meat?" asked Cho Wi Pil, who runs 150 head of native cattle, or Hanwoo, in central Boeun county. "Once the market is fully open to the U.S., the Korean beef industry cannot survive."

Source: Bloomberg

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