For the first time in 14 years, American beef passed through Chinese inspections June 16 as demand for premium beef continues to grow in China’s $2.6 billion-dollar beef import market. The two countries initially agreed to resume trade in May and finally settled on the conditions for exports last week.
The guidelines of the agreement dictate that boneless and bone-in beef from cattle under 30 months of age will qualify for imports. Beef must also be from cattle that can be traced back to its birth farm. The rules also forbid the use of artificial growth hormones.
U.S. meat processor Tyson Foods sent the first shipment of beef through Cofco Meat Holdings, to be sold through Cofco’s e-commerce platform. It was a small amount to start, as some U.S. beef producers prepare their operations to meet the import requirements.
American beef is known throughout many areas of China as having excellent quality. However, after a mad cow disease scare in 2003 China banned beef imports from the U.S. As a result, beef imports from other sources have increased dramatically due to the struggle of domestic producers to keep up with demand from China’s expanding middle class.
China’s beef imports increased 22% last year and Rabobank is forecasting that by 2020 imports of beef will make up over 20% of the overall supply.