Four more packers approved to ship beef to China

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Four more Canadian beef packing plants have picked up approval from the Chinese government to export their wares to China.

Les Viandes Laroche of Asbestos, Que., Ryding Regency Meat Packers and St. Helen’s Meat Packers of Toronto and Canadian Premium Meats of Lacombe, Alta. can now ship deboned beef from cattle under 30 months of age (UTMs) to China, bringing the total number of eligible packers to seven, the federal government announced Friday.

The four "are all smaller establishments, but each has indicated an interest in serving the Chinese market," the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) noted in a separate release. "These facilities may have the flexibility to meet the Chinese requirement that beef be produced from cattle that have not been fed beta-agonist growth promoters such as ractopamine."

"From a Canadian beef brand, marketing and promotions perspective, we are pleased an increased number of exporters will now be eligible to ship to this promising and valued market," Rob Meijer, president of Canada Beef, added in the export development agency’s separate release.

"Being able to match demand with supply from a larger complement of federal abattoirs is one of the primary means to ensure Canada will be competitive internationally."

China agreed in June 2011 to allow imports of Canadian UTM deboned beef, making Canada the first country that’s had confirmed cases of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) in domestic cattle to resume shipping beef to China.

The approvals to date are part of the "staged access agreement" China and Canada reached in June 2010.

Canada Beef has estimated the Chinese market for Canadian UTM deboned beef to be worth about $20 million a year. Full market access for Canadian beef and cattle in China, when reached, is expected to be worth about $110 million in annual exports, the agency added.

With these approvals in hand, the CCA said its priority for China will shift to further expand access to include bone-in UTM beef.

"Canada has shipped enough high quality beef to China that meets their current specifications and we can do the same with bone-in UTM beef," CCA president Martin Unrau said in the association’s release.

"Canadian producers are eager to tap this market, although volumes will likely continue to be impacted by the barrier around ractopamine, despite the establishment of an internationally-agreed maximum residue level (MRL) by Codex."

The Codex Alimentarius Commission, the United Nations-sponsored body whose standards are the commonly-accepted international reference points for food safety, last July approved MRLs for ractopamine in beef and pork as well as an acceptable daily intake (ADI) for cattle and hogs.

Ractopamine is marketed in Canada by Elanco as a premix under the name Optaflexx 100 for finishing beef cattle.

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