WASHINGTON – Less than a week after the G20 Agriculture Ministerial Meeting in Niigata, Japan, US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue has announced the elimination of Japan’s age restriction on US cattle products. During the meeting, Perdue and Japanese government officials affirmed that new trade rules and policies between the countries be based in science. The new conditions of trade open the US’ top global beef market. USDA estimates the expanded access could increase exports to Japan up to $200 million annually.

“This is great news for American ranchers and exporters who now have full access to the Japanese market for their high-quality, safe, wholesome and delicious US beef,” Secretary Perdue said. “We are hopeful that Japan’s decision will help lead other markets around the world toward science-based policies.”

The timeline for Japan and the US resolving the restrictions on US beef to Japan started in December 2003 after bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was detected in the US. Two years later Japan began to allow partial access of US muscle cuts and offal products from animals 20 months old or younger. February 2013 saw Japan extend access further to include US beef products from cattle less than 30 months old.

Japan eliminated age-based BSE testing on its domestic cattle in April 2017, leading to elimination of similar age-based restrictions on negligible BSE-risk trading partners, including the US. On Jan. 15, 2019, Japan’s Food Safety Commission (FSC) concluded eliminating the age restriction for beef from the US, Canada and Ireland posed a negligible risk to human health. Japan then began to consult with the US to revise import requirements to align with the BSE guidelines of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

In response to Secretary Perdue’s announcement, president and CEO of the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF), Dan Halstrom issued the following statement:

“USMEF appreciates the efforts of USDA and the Office of the US Trade Representative to secure removal of the 30-month cattle age limit for beef exports to Japan, which is a major step toward putting BSE in the rear-view mirror when it comes to global beef trade. While most of the US beef shipped to Japan will continue to be from fed cattle under 30 months of age, the opportunities for over-30-month beef cuts and beef variety meat are significant. Japanese buyers from the pre-BSE era are very familiar with these opportunities, and USMEF has been educating many others who entered the industry over the past 15 to 20 years.

“USMEF estimates that removal of the cattle age restriction will increase exports to Japan 7 to 10 percent, or by $150 million to $200 million per year. Beef muscle cuts from over-30-month cattle that are most likely to achieve success with Japanese buyers include short plate, chuckeye rolls, short ribs, middle meats, clods and briskets. Beef variety meat items most likely to be in demand include outside skirts, hanging tenders, mountain chain tripe, tongues, abomasum and intestines. The ability to use beef from over-30-month cattle will also lower costs for companies exporting processed beef products to Japan. But for the US industry to fully capitalize on this growth opportunity, US beef needs to be on a level playing field in Japan. So USMEF is also anxious to see progress in the US-Japan trade negotiations.”