Older Beef Starts Going to Japan

2/23/2013 7:00 AM

Japan has begun accepting U.S. beef from cattle under 30 months of age. Japan officially relaxed its previous age limit (under 21 months) Feb. 1 and USDA began issuing export certificates Feb. 7-8.

Initial additional shipments included short ribs, beef tongues, chuck rolls and short plates. Ribs and plates are likely to lead an increase in exports to Japan this year.

Ground beef from under-30 cattle is not yet included. It will be phased in after a surveillance period to ensure the new export protocol is proceeding smoothly.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation forecasts that exports to Japan in 2013 will increase 45 percent in volume and value, reaching 225,000 metric tons and $1.5 billion (compared with $1.03 billion in 2012).

This forecast might be overly optimistic, say analysts. Increased exports will depend on the strength of the Japanese yen versus the U.S. dollar and how high U.S. domestic prices go.

Both factors will determine how much more U.S. beef Japan is able and willing to buy, they say. As expected, age verification can be either through documentation which identifies the age or dentition.

U.S. beef exports set a new value record in 2012, topping highs set in 2011, according to the export federation. The achievement was more significant in light of challenging export conditions that included nonscience-based trade barriers in several key markets and an anemic economy in certain regions, it says.

The value of beef exports rose 2 percent to a record-high $5.51 billion on 12 percent lower volumes (1.13 million metric tons). The per head export value hit a record $216.73, a $10.36 increase over 2011.

Contributing to that was a new monthly record value of $242.65 set in December. For the year, exports accounted for 12.7 percent of total beef production and 9.8 percent of muscle cut production. This compared with 14.2 and 11 percent in 2011.

Pennsylvania Center for Beef Excellence Inc. with information from the CME Report, Cattle Buyers Weekly and other resources. For more information, call 717-705-1689.

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