DENVER – After discovering the first bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) case in the United States back in 2003, Mexico was the first foreign market to reopen to US beef. Since that time, Mexico has perennially been the largest volume market for US beef exports, according to the US Meat Export Federation (USMEF). However, BSE-related restrictions on US beef imports remain for Mexico, including a 30-month cattle age limit.

A full reopening of Mexico’s market to US beef imports is a top priority for US trade officials – and progress is being made, Chad Russell, USMEF regional director, recently told a group of US beef producers and exporters. Most recently, beef feet and sweetbreads were removed from the list of US beef items prohibited by Mexico – prohibited items still include ground beef and mechanically separated meat. However, the cattle age limit remains a difficult obstacle to overcome.

Nevertheless, US beef exports to Mexico performed very well in 2011. From January through October, US beef exports to Mexico (including variety meat) totaled approximately 470 million lbs. valued at $818.2 million. This represents a 6 percent increase in volume and a 25 percent increase in value over the first 10 months of 2010.