Cattle Marketing and Trade
Cattle producers, like other business owners, support free-market principles in the buying and selling of their products. Our industry has created value-added marketing programs that allow cattle producers to maximize profitability. These programs allow producers to be rewarded for investing in cattle genetic improvements and herd-management practices in order to produce high-quality cattle which they can then sell for a premium through a marketing arrangement.
As Americans, we rely on federal regulators to ensure that the marketplace is free from anti-trust, collision, price fixing, and other illegal activities that damage the viability of the market and interfere with market signals. It is important that we maintain a business and regulatory climate that ensures commerce is fair, open, transparent, and not overly burdensome.
Mandatory Country of Origin Labeling
Implemented in March 2009, Mandatory Country Of Origin Labeling (MCOOL) requires the mandatory labeling of meat packaged for retail. MCOOL is not a food safety tool, but simply a marketing tool that provides consumers with information on the origin of where the cattle are born. The addition of a country-of-origin label does not make beef any more or less safe thabn it would otherwise be. The beef industry has worked for years to develop livestock production practices, product handling procedures and industry-wide food safety initiatives to keep the beef supply safe. These innovations, along with effective government regulation, provide multiple firewalls that keep our beef safe.
With more than 96 percent of the world’s consumers living outside the United States, increasing export opportunities for U.S. beef is crucial for the long term sustainability and success of the industry. Cattlemen support open markets, level playing fields and science-based standards in international trade. Foreign consumer demand for beef has steadily grown over the years as more consumers have begun to incorporate protein in their diet. U.S. beef is a fierce competitor with other leading exporters for the growing markets in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.
Trade also allows us to import beef from other countries to supplement American consumer demand for ground beef. Beef imports to the United States primarily come from Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.
Without question, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has given U.S. beef a strong advantage over other countries in competition for North American consumers. Today, Canada and Mexico are two of the leading importers of U.S. beef. Duty-free access and close proximity are two of the main reasons why Canada and Mexico are such strong markets for U.S. beef.
Central America, South America, and the Caribbean
U.S. beef has a strong and growing presence among consumers in the countries of Central America, South America, and the Caribbean Islands. Free trade agreements with Peru and Chile, in addition to the Central American Free Trade Agreement, have expanded market access for U.S. beef. The recent implementation of free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama present a great opportunity for U.S. beef exports and give us access to consumers in 2/3 of the Western Hemisphere.
Europe and the Middle East
The U.S. beef industry has a longstanding history of providing the E.U. with high quality U.S. beef and we look forward to improving that relationship so that we can provide more U.S. beef to our E.U. customers at a competitive price. According to USDA data compiled by the U.S. Meat Export Federation, European consumers purchased approximately $236 million of U.S. beef in 2012, making the E.U. one of our top ten export markets for beef.
Asia and Oceania
Asia has experienced tremendous economic growth in recent years with an emerging middle class that is incorporating more protein into its diet. Despite being shut out of most Asian markets in 2003, the U.S. beef industry has worked hard to restore consumer confidence in U.S. beef production and continues to gain back market share in many of those countries by providing Asian consumers with a safe and delicious beef product. The United States is actively engaged in trade negotiations throughout Asia in order to remove remarkably high import tariffs and restrictive quotas and non-tariff trade barriers that limit access to Asian consumers. Demand for U.S. beef is strong in Asia, and even with these restrictions in place, three of the top five export markets for U.S. beef in 2012 were Asian countries.