Marginal effect on trade as U.S. finds another mad cow case

Reuters / Canada, the third-biggest beef exporter in the world, is unlikely to face any trade backlash from a U.S. mad cow case, even though its beef market is highly integrated with the United States, industry and agriculture officials said April 25.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said April 24 it had detected mad cow disease, formally called bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), in a U.S. cow, but that no part of the animal’s carcass entered the food system.

Major markets, including Canada and Japan, have stayed open to U.S. beef, but two major South Korean retailers halted sales.

Canada was the biggest importer of U.S. beef in 2011, but Canadian buyers do not export beef that they originally purchased from the United States, said John Masswohl, director of government and international relations for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association. Canada has also not imported U.S. cattle for slaughter for several years, he said.

“We don’t import U.S. beef to re-export it to other countries,” Masswohl said. “It’s not a scenario that would come up.”

The discovery of a California dairy cow with mad cow disease will also not affect trade between Canada and the United States, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said.

In a statement to Reuters, Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said neither country’s beef trade will likely be affected by the case.

“Our ongoing BSE surveillance program, in addition to a strict enhanced feed ban and a world-class traceability system, helps Canada maintain domestic and international confidence in the safety of our beef industry,” he said.

Both Canada and the United States ban using parts of ruminant animals (including cattle) in feed for ruminant animals, a step that guards against the spread of mad cow through feed.

Mad cow disease was discovered in a Canadian cow in 2003, and later that year in a U.S. cow that had been imported from Canada.

Mexico, South Korea, Japan, Canada and the European Union said they would continue to import U.S. beef, although two major South Korean retailers halted sales and Indonesia, a small buyer, suspended shipments.

In 2011, Canada, Japan, Mexico and South Korea combined took 65 per cent, or 1.82 billion lbs., of U.S. beef exports.

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