Johnston: Bogus Brazilian Beef
On Friday, February 21st, the United States officially reopened its border to fresh Brazilian beef exports. This decision was justified by the U.S. government on the basis that Brazilian beef and cattle are cheaper to American consumers and offer more choices to purchase cheaper beef. The only problem with this statement is that this Brazilian beef is not distinguished as a product of Brazil.
Imported beef can be sold to consumers with nothing but a USDA safety inspection sticker. Consumers have no way to differentiate Brazilian beef from the safe, high-quality beef produced by American farmers and ranchers. This sticker often misleads consumers and leaves them thinking that all the beef in the meat case is American beef. With the U.S. no longer requiring mandatory Country-of-Origin Labeling on beef and the USDA allowing imported beef to be misleadingly labeled “Product of U.S.A.,” consumers do not have the information to differentiate between imported and domestic beef.
In 2017, the USDA halted imports of fresh beef from Brazil after they were caught shipping rotten, salmonella-tainted meat around the world. JBS was then caught bribing health inspectors in an attempt to continue the sale of this expired meat. This meat was altered with chemicals such as water and manioc flour to mask the appearance and smell.
The concern regarding human health and safety, along with the risk to our cattle herds is immeasurable. On top of all of that, how about the stress and pressure this will put on U.S. cattle producers? With the option of cheaper Brazilian beef back on the U.S. market, there will clearly be less incentive to pay U.S. ranchers a decent price for their cattle. The American rancher is already struggling with less than ideal markets that are not only influenced by industry factors, but also by unrelated world events that can sink the markets limit down for days on end.
Brazil is listed as FMD-free (Foot-and-Mouth Disease) with vaccination by the World Organization for Animal Health. With that being said, FMD has been endemic in northern regions of Brazil. U.S. cattle producers are held to certain standards, as we should be. So then why would we ever want to bring a product into this country that could tarnish the superior beef reputation we’ve built up?
The Brazilian government has a poor track record when it comes to being honest, they are widely known for corruption. This agreement to open our borders is downright dangerous and reckless. It is also very clear that this is a political move and all science-based facts are being ignored. Secretary Perdue needs to take a step back and consider the impact this careless decision will have on U.S. cattle producers.