Huge Potential Markets For US Beef In China, Japan

US - China is seen as big market for US beef, and Japan could be worth $1 billion more if the age limit were relaxed.
calendar icon 24 March 2010
clock icon 2 minute read

China represents a potential $100 billion market for beef, while the Japanese market could increase by a $1 billion if it were to relax the age limit on the US beef that it accepts, the head of the largest US cattle group told reporters at the Reuters Food and Agriculture Summit 2010 in Chicago last week.

Forrest Roberts, chief executive of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said: "You look at China, it is worth $100 billion of opportunity for growth. It is absolutely significant."

In 2009, China and Hong Kong combined bought about $85.5 million worth of US beef, or about three per cent of the total, according to the US Meat Export Federation.

Pork and chicken are the primary meats consumed in China but Mr Roberts said US beef has a chance of gaining market share.

He said: "We feel we have an infrastructure in this country that produces a very efficient product of a very high quality. We feel like that we can add value, not only to adding protein to their diet, but also at a very affordable price."

China would be a good market for lower-priced US beef items such a trimmings and ground beef and edible organs like livers and kidneys. But later, that could increase to steaks and fillets, he said.

The United States has been working to rebuild beef exports since 2003, when a case of mad cow disease here had many countries bar or pare purchases of US beef.

Japan, once the top buyer of US beef taking $1.4 billion worth in 2003, now limits the US beef it buys to cattle under 20 months of age as a precaution against mad cow disease. In 2009, it bought $470 million worth.

If Japan were to expand the age limit to 30 months, it could add about $1 billion in revenue for the beef industry, said Mr Roberts. The United States argues the 30-month limit would still keep consumers safe from mad cow disease.

He said: "Japan represents what we feel, near term, is at a very minimum of a $1 billion in additional value."

Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), is a deadly brain disease that can occur in older cattle. The concern is it is believed humans can contract a similar deadly brain disease by eating infected parts from affected cattle, according to the report of the Reuters Summit.

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