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International Breaks

  Today, U.S. agriculture is not just about feeding the people in the U.S. While I can’t deny that it is important that we continue to make sure that people across the U.S. have full bellies at the end of the day our agriculture industry extends far beyond that. Today, we are literally feeding the world, and the impact of the global marketplace is incredible.

It’s no secret that I’m an international junkie – I love travel, follow international politics and I’m pretty excited by the idea that we live in a big world geographically, but on a more personal level, it’s a pretty small place. And recently, international news has had my rapt attention.

Just this week, Japan (finally) announced that it will open its border to U.S. beef under 30 months of age. This has huge market implications. Economists from coast to coast mark Asian markets as having the most potential for expansion. However, on the other side of the coin, CME Group looked deeper and released a report that said last year, Japan didn’t import as much U.S. beef as they could have. They didn’t meet their import ceiling. 

But Japan continues to be at the top of the list of export markets for U.S. beef, and their hunger for cuts like the short plate is still there, despite competition across Asia for the product. 

“Japan could have bought a lot more steak and round cuts, even chucks in 2012, but they did not,” CME Group stated, adding that price is a significant issue for Japanese consumers. Since beef prices from the U.S., Australia and the domestic market have all increased sharply, CME Group speculated that high prices were keeping consumers out of the market. However, in my basic knowledge of supply and demand – as supply goes up, price goes down – it makes sense that more available cattle eligible for export to Japan would help ease price concerns. We can only hope that the Japanese market will compensate for the loss of exports to Russia.

Also this week, Russia made good on their threats to ban beef and pork beginning Feb. 11 because the products could not be guaranteed ractopamine free. With Russia sitting as the sixth largest export market for U.S. beef, the ban may make a big impact. Hopefully, Japanese markets will surge and compensate for the loss.

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember the people across the world love U.S. beef. It’s about the taste, quality and experience of eating the delicious product that we serve up around the globe. And with marketing campaigns working to increase awareness and educate global consumers, things look good for beef exports. 

However, on the domestic front, it seems to be a different story. Our consumers still question beef production and want to know more about how we produce and how we treat our animals. The questions that have been put in their minds by groups like the Human Society of the United States, for example, has caused a surge of concern – and it’s something that we need to continue to address. 

But for now, despite all concerns, just keep producing that delicious, high quality product that we all love – beef. 

Saige