After 13 years, China has decided US beef is good again

Moooooore beef.
Moooooore beef.
Image: Reuters/Marcos Brindicci
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Suddenly, China has an appetite for American beef.

The world’s second-largest economy announced today (Sept. 22) it’s ready to start importing (pdf, in Chinese) US beef again, after more than a dozen years of eschewing it. China in 2003 stopped importing most US beef products after a mad cow disease scare in the American market. At the time, it was buying about $10 million each year in US beef.

Since then, the country’s rising middle class has started consuming more meat products. The market is now estimated to be worth as much as $1.8 billion per year. That’s good news for American cattlemen, who will finally be able to tap into the growing Chinese market, as the pork and chicken industries have already done.

After 2003, China banned most beef imports from the US, but still allowed veal; the USDA does not maintain separate export numbers for beef and veal. Even combined, beef and veal exports to mainland China are dwarfed by chicken and pork exports.

Before beef exports to China can begin, the US Department of Agriculture must negotiate with Chinese officials to settle on specific conditions, including safety standards, that will apply.

“The United States produces the highest-quality beef in the world, and China’s 1.3 billion consumers are an important market for US producers,” said Tom Vilsack, the US secretary of agriculture in a statement.