China's promised Ractopamine risk assessment could signal a move to science-based beef trade

News of the U.S./China trade deal has largely focused on China agreeing to purchase $80 billion in U.S. agricultural goods over the next two years, but there are other clauses in the text of the deal that have the potential for a large impact on American and Canadian beef producers. The deal also includes a commitment to review the risk of a common feed additive.

Some in the Canadian cattle industry view the Phase One deal as a major advantage for the U.S. over Canadian cattle,  but based on many conversations I have had at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s convention, this is not true. The promise for a Ractopamine risk assessment is a great example. In the agreement China agreed to not only accept beef with added hormones, but also engage in a review and risk assessment of Ractopamine imported beef.

On Friday’s edition of RealAg Radio, Kent Bacus, director of trade and market access with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, says in China the topic of Ractopamine has been taboo. In China, he says, they confuse it with other products and that comes down to a lack of education of the safety of these FDA approved products. “This is something that both Canada and the U.S. have fought for, this shows science-based trade and recognition of international standards,” he says.

Even though the Phase One deal does not involve Canada, the country would stand to benefit if China reverses its decision on Ractopamine.

John Masswohl, of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, says that if China were to adopt the international codex standard on Ractopamine, we could have every animal eligible for producing beef for China instead of dedicated production. That is a game changer and hard to know how much we could sell to China, but it’s likely in the several hundred millions of dollars.

Trade experts believe that this is an indication of a shift in mindset in China in how they view technology. On science-based trade, Bacus believes that Canada and the U.S. produce beef the right way, “together our industries are setting a high standard of beef production that other countries are hopefully going to follow and it is important that we continue to stand together on this.”

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