Beef exports are a significant and growing component of the U.S. beef complex, as the graphic above depicts. Exports also have been a major topic of discussion for the beef sector in recent days following Russia’s announcement that all imported products must be certified free of ractopamine. The National Pork Producers Council points out that USDA doesn’t have a testing and certification program in place to detect ractopamine residues in pork or beef because the feed additive has been approved by FDA as a safe product. Ractopamine improves the feed efficiency, growth rate and lean carcass percentage of live hogs and cattle.
Russia’s announcement is important on several fronts. First, it reveals a potential liability for the beef industry around its use of beta-agonists, both internationally and domestically. Second, it also underscores the importance (and fragility) of international trade across all fronts for the beef industry. Clearly, exports represent an important source of revenue for beef producers.
As such, what’s the appropriate response from the beef industry regarding this matter? And what lessons were learned, if any, from the 20-year battle with the European Union over the use of growth implants in U.S. beef production? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.