A panel of Japanese technical experts have agreed to accept U.S. grading systems as an appropriate means to determine the age of cattle. The action now resolves all the technical issues on resuming beef trade with Japan.
"Today's determination by the Japanese experts is an important step towards resolving this issue between our two countries," says Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns. "We now call upon our Japanese colleagues to expedite the remaining implementation process so that trade may resume."
Last month U.S. experts offered data and statistics showing that "A40" grade beef, mainly from cattle aged 12-17 months, should be free of mad cow disease. The Japanese panel's report said based on the evidence from the U.S. government, the method would prove an animal was 20 months old or younger. The age is important to the Japanese because of recent domestic finds of BSE in cattle younger than 21 months of age.
According to Reuters, the panel will now submit a report to the government, which has yet to finalize its own domestic policy on mad cow.
Export sales are very important to the U.S. cattle and beef industry, amounting to 10% of our total production. Sales to Japan alone exceeded $1.7 billion in 2003 before trade was halted due to the finding of one case of BSE in the United States.