September 5, 2003
Canada and U.S. Establish Beef Export Rules
Canada and the United States have agreed on details about how Canadian slaughter plants can process boneless beef from young cattle for export, beef industry officials said on Sept 4.
The agreement should pave the way for the first significant exports of Canadian beef since a case of mad cow disease shut down trade from the export-dependent sector in May, said Ted Haney, president of the Canadian Beef Export Federation. "We are at this point in time, ready to roll," Haney said, predicting shipments by early next week. "We have the essential agreements in place now for Canadian beef to flow south, so that's a wonderful piece of news," he said. The export bans have depressed prices, backed up supplies and cost the industry more than C$1 billion ($730 million).
Last month, U.S. officials said they would start to allow imports of boneless Canadian beef from cattle under 30 months old because the meat is thought to be at low risk of containing mad cow disease. But the two countries have had a difficult time agreeing on how best to keep young livestock separate from older animals.
Initially, U.S. officials insisted they would accept meat only from Canadian plants that refused all animals over the age of 30 months. But after interventions from industry groups and top political officials on both sides of the border, the two countries agreed on a more flexible approach, Haney said.
Canadian plants will process young cattle at the start of shifts, and older cattle at the end of shifts, Haney said. Plants will have separate splitting saws and other key equipment to use exclusively for the young animals, he said. Plants will also have detailed rules for keeping meat from young and older cattle segregated through cutting lines, packaging, boxing and shipping stages, Haney said.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is waiting for written confirmation of the protocols from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and will be able to issue export certificates by early next week, Haney said. A CFIA spokeswoman confirmed the two countries reached an agreement, but could not provide details. Haney said he expects Mexican officials to announce similar rules shortly. "This will trigger volume movement," Haney said.