DENVER -- Late last week, Taiwan approved eight categories of beef offal for import from the United States, further expanding the potential for growth of U.S. beef exports to this key Asian market, according to the U.S. Meat Export Federation (U.S.M.E.F.). In October 2009, the U.S. and Taiwan reached an agreement that allowed bone-in beef cuts back into the market for the first time in more than six years.

Approved items include beef skirts and hanging tenders, which have enjoyed considerable success in Asia. Selected variety meat items, such as liver and kidneys, are not yet fully approved but are under consideration.

Kevin Smith, U.S.M.E.F. director of export services for the Asian markets, says Taiwan’s latest expansion of access for U.S. beef is very positive news for the industry. Last year Taiwan set a new value record for imports of U.S. beef at $141.2 million – up 11% from 2008 – despite some controversy over the inclusion of bone-in beef cuts for the first time since 2003. The market has also been off to a strong start in 2010.

“We were exporting deboned muscle meat to Taiwan for the last several years and set several records,” Mr. Smith said. “We reached an agreement late last year to expand access for all products and I would think consistent with the O.I.E. (World Organization for Animal Health) guidelines recommended for trade. Once the negotiation was complete, we established a process for expanding that access.”

But what ended up happening was the U.S. actually had to scale back the opening of the market and looked at initially exporting product that would be bone-in and deboned from cattle less than 30 months of age. “And that’s been really successful as far as that first step,” Mr. Smith said. “Now what we’re seeing here is Taiwan following up with their commitments they’ve made, which we’re happy to see and networking through their political process. Now it looks like we’re going to be able to get a lot of items we couldn’t previously export. We haven’t exported any of these items since the market was closed in 2003.

We’re really excited to get products like skirts, hanging tenders and those types of products, which are items we’re classifying as offal,” he continued. “Those are big-demand items in their market and I know the industry is really excited about those.”

Mr. Smith said while skirts and hanging tenders represent the most promising items in Taiwan, the U.S. will still be trying to gain approval for variety-meat items that can provide further growth. “There are a couple of categories that have still yet to be defined,” he said. “Were still waiting to see if products like kidneys and liver, we’re not sure about the eligibility of those products. we’ll have to work on that.”