Brazil announces discovery of another BSE cow
With Brazil reporting an atypical case of BSE this week, the nation enforced its policy of halting exports to China until the two countries determine that trade should resume.
Because the case is atypical – theoretically occurring spontaneously and not due to the cow consuming affected meat products – the trade disruption is not expected to last very long.
China, the main destination for Brazilian beef, accounted for almost 60% of the nation’s exports last month
The case of “mad cow” was detected in Maraba, Para state. The 9-year-old animal, which was allegedly grass-fed, was reportedly culled, and the carcass burned on the farm. The last atypical mad cow case in Brazil was in 2021, when China took three months to lift an export ban.
Imports of beef from Brazil to the U.S. have spiked in the last two years as U.S. demand for processing-grade beef has substantially increased. In January 2022 alone, imports reached nearly 100 million pounds—a more than 500 percent increase relative to the same month a year earlier—with fresh beef accounting for 83 million pounds, according to the USDA Economic Research Service.
In 2021, Brazil did not report the BSE case immediately, but waited “months” before alerting the rest of the world to the case.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, United States Cattlemen’s Association and R-CALF USA have all called for a ban on fresh beef from Brazil at least until the country can prove it is following “equivalent” to U.S. health and safety protocols in its beef processing plants and with its inspection standards.
NCBA’s president Todd Wilkinson, an attorney and cattle feeder from DeSmet, South Dakota, said that his organization has been asking for all fresh meat from Brazil to be halted at least for the time being.
“We’re waiting to find out if they did what they did in ’21, and that is to have the BSE case but not report it in a timely manner. That’s our biggest concern,” he said.
Wilkinson said it’s “pretty frustrating” that, while U.S. policy calls for countries that export beef to the U.S. to follow equivalent inspection standards, those standards would have required Brazil to report the ’21 case immediately, which didn’t happen.
Is this an indication of a bigger problem? “It’s hard to have a lot of faith with a country doesn’t comply with the rules. USDA could use this as a reason to say ‘let’s go in and do some inspections and see if they are in compliance,’” he said.
Wilkinson said imports of “lean trim,” like that from Brazil, are important to provide a supply of ground beef for U.S. consumers.
“A significant amount of the meat we import from Brazil goes into grind,” he said. Wilkinson said that U.S. cattle are “a better product” that doesn’t get made into ground beef, and that U.S. cattle producers don’t provide enough lower quality cattle to meet U.S. demand.
He went on to say that if Vilsack followed NCBA’s request for a temporary ban on Brazilian beef, that it may or may not affect U.S. cattle prices.
However, if China continues to ban Brazilian beef, it may equate to more Chinese demand for U.S. beef.
Does the U.S. have enough beef to meet that demand, if we can’t fill that gap in the domestic supply? “I think we have the meat to send. What it will do to prices is a function of supply and demand. You’ll see supply and demand,” said Wilkinson.
However, he doesn’t expect China to maintain the ban for very long, which means the U.S. market will likely remain unchanged.
Additionally, Bloomberg reports that Brazil’s mega international meat companies have other ways to feed China’s hunger for beef.
“Minerva and Marfrig said they will continue to meet Chinese demand through plants in Uruguay and Argentina. JBS could do the same using facilities in Australia, according to Leonardo Alencar, an analyst at XP Investimentos,” according to a Bloomberg article.
CattleFax’s Kevin Good said he doesn’t expect the U.S. market to be affected this time around, and that it appears Brazil is “playing by the rules” this time.
“If, for some reason, they (China) want to shut the border down more than just for a short term, there might be a market disruption, but for right now, I don’t see any big story,” he said.
“Put simply, Brazil is a bad actor in the global marketplace,” said Whitney Klasna, Vice President of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association. “Several countries, including China, banned the Brazilian beef last year following animal and human health scares in the country. It is outrageous that we continue to accept the importation of beef from a country that is not interested in upholding the high standards and quality of the U.S. cattle and beef industries. USCA looks forward to working with Senators Tester and Rounds to push this bill to the President’s desk.”
In 2021, R-CALF USA urged USDA to ban all beef products from Brazil – both fresh and pre-cooked, following the report of a BSE case.
“What Brazil’s trail of reporting violations reveals is that government-led sanctions have proven inadequate to ensure Brazil’s ongoing compliance with food safety protocols demanded by U.S.
consumers,” said R-CALF.
R-CALF USA advocates for mandatory country of origin labeling and says that in cases like this, it would allow consumers to differentiate and make informed decisions about buying beef from domestic producers if they so choose.
Wilkinson doesn’t believe mCOOL would impact this situation.
“That’s a different issue. It wouldn’t clear up the problem of whether Brazil is doing what it is supposed to for inspection standards,” said Wilkinson.
Republican state chairman and sheep and cattle rancher Carson Jorgenson of Utah, has long advocated for mCOOL and he said this situation is evidence that the policy is needed to protect U.S. producers.
He also believes the U.S. should halt imports of Brazilian beef at least until Brazil’s inspection standards are thoroughly reviewed.
“I’ll be honest, mainstream media loves fear-mongering. They catch wind of mad cow disease in Brazil, people in this country would stop buying Brazilian beef. This is why mCOOL is so important to me.”