GREELEY, Colo. – JBS USA pork has joined a list of US companies committed to producing pork without using ractopamine, a drug that is banned by China, Russia, the European Union and some other countries.

In a statement, the company said, “JBS USA pork has made the decision to eliminate ractopamine from its supply chain to maximize export opportunities. The company previously removed ractopamine from its internal live pork production systems in August 2018.

“US pork producers are among the most productive and efficient in the world. We are confident this decision will provide long-term benefits to our producer partners and our industry by ensuring US pork products are able to compete fairly in the international marketplace.”

Ractopamine is a feed ingredient used to promote leanness in pork and beef. Use of ractopamine was controversial as studies pointing to detrimental health effects emerged.

Pork production in the United States is rising to meet demand from China which continues to purchase pork from the US despite the ongoing trade war between the two countries. African Swine Fever has decimated China’s swine herd and spread to other countries such as the Philippines and South Korea. US pork exports to China still account for only 9 percent of that country’s total pork imports, with 62 percent coming from the EU, 15 percent from Canada and 10 percent from Brazil.

In 2013, Smithfield Foods announced its plans to phase out ractopamine. Then-CEO Larry Pope said the company changed its hog raising operations to gain access to export markets that were closed to the company’s competitors.

“Whether I like it or not, this industry has gotten married to exports, so we've got to do what we can to manage,” Pope said.