China Wants America's Best Meat

A woman poses for a photograph with an albino water buffalo after feeding it at Wat Hua Lamphong temple in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday, June 7, 2017. Devotees feed resident cows and water buffaloes, which have been saved from slaughterhouses to make merit, an intrinsic part of Thai social behavior.(AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe)

The sexiest week in American politics has ended. Some in the nation’s capitol, and across the country, shed a tear at the torrent of emotions that come to a grinding halt when Infrastructure Week is over. It leaves one feeling alive and empty all in a single sublimely somber moment that careens through five days of the turbulent American consciousness. Sometimes, resisting and standing up against crumbling infrastructure is too much for one person to handle. Thank goodness the Comey hearings were there to cleanse America’s collective palate from the daunting task of reviving domestic infrastructure.


The most promising, if not least controversial, goal is the focus the Trump administration has placed on opening beef markets in China. The Chinese had closed its borders to American imports of all beef over mad cow disease in 2003. In May, the Trump administration announced it would work with China to set up regulations on the American cattle industries to put China’s worries at ease for the growing middle-class demand for quality American beef. However, the cattle industry is less than impressed and this can possibly raise beef prices across the board for Americans.

“I think everybody’s very optimistic, yet somewhat guarded,” said Jeff Swanson, owner of Swanson Cattle Co. in Oxford, in south-central Nebraska. “Sometimes things don’t turn out as good as you hope.”

(Hopefully, Mr. Swanson’s point isn’t too fine there.)
It was something Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska who urged President Trump to change his position from the bedrock of the campaign Make America Great Again and reconsider the protectionism that augmented his populism. Trump has changed on the issue and champions it as evidence that he is fulfilling promises made in 2016 but it isn’t quite the victory he would have the public believe. This process was started under the Obama administration. It’s the very kind of thing Trump campaigned against, but Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue made it priority number 1 upon assuming his post in April which was seamless as the framework had largely already been hammered out. One should remain cynical of the hype surrounding the talk of new markets suddenly open; they just aren’t there out of the gate. One reason that forced China to consider this move is the illegal and sometimes substandard beef that is smuggled in from Hong Kong every year. This move doesn’t bring new customers but merely cuts the Vietnamese middleman out of the delivery process. Another fact that leaves one underwhelmed is that beef isn’t a household trend at this point in China; people literally don’t know how to cook it at this point. It is mainly restaurants who purchase it in China — that dynamic drastically narrows the market. Finally, and most importantly, it could raise the price of beef for Americans.
These are the things China wants:
  • China will accept both frozen and fresh-chilled beef products, bone-in and boneless cuts and ground beef products. Offals will be accepted, at first in a narrow range, including heart, liver and tendon.
  • Hormones that are not naturally occurring won’t be allowed. Meat found with traces of synthetic hormones or with hormones above naturally occurring levels will be destroyed.
  • Every change in ownership will not have to be tracked, just birthplace and slaughter plant. Producers who wish their cattle to be eligible should sign up with third-party certification programs, which are listed on USDA’s website.
  • Beef must be from animals 30 months or younger. Many U.S. meat packers already meet that criterion for exports to other countries.
  • USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service will be accepted for determining a meat processing plant’s eligibility to export beef.
This could all raise prices for Americans across the board, limit selection and quality for domestic consumption — and worst of all — alter the perfectly planned summer barbecue. Then again it’s possible ranchers look to locally focused slaughter houses who don’t want to bother with the new regulations China is placing on the industry and would rather just comply with what’s been the standard for half a century. Which could down the road lead to more jobs which is always popular.


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