Cattle producers watch as US senator pushes for a Brazilian beef ban on mad cow cases

A US senator has passed a bill to halt imports of Brazilian beef as concerns rise over Brazil’s handling of two outbreaks of atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) – commonly known as mad cow disease.

The international beef trade was brought to the attention of Brazil’s BSE case in early September, but it has since been revealed that the Brazilian authorities were aware of the outbreak in June.

The US National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) is not impressed and has called on US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to immediately stop imports of Brazilian beef.

“It’s time to keep Brazilian fresh beef out of this country until the USDA can confirm that Brazil meets the same consumer and food safety standards that we apply to all of our trading partners,” NCBAs Ethan Lane said.

“Their poor performance and lack of transparency raises serious doubts about Brazil’s ability to produce cattle and beef at a similar level of safety as US producers.

“If they can not meet that bar, their product has no place here.”

Brazilian beef cattle
Serious questions are being asked about Brazil, the world’s largest exporter of beef.(Commons)

The concerns of groups like the NCBA have now been helped by U.S. Senator for Montana Jon Tester, who has enacted legislation to enforce a ban on Brazilian beef.

“Concerns over Brazilian beef imports not only threaten consumer confidence, but pose a serious risk to Montana producers,” the senator wrote on his Facebook page.

How long will America accept the beef that China rejects?

When the BSE cases in Brazil became public in September, the Brazilian government forced a suspension of beef exports to China – its biggest customer.

But as the months went by, it was soon China that stepped in and enforced a ban on Brazilian beef.

Global AgriTrends meat analyst Simon Quilty said data suggest Brazil was trying to export record quantities of beef to China before reporting the BSE cases to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

“We saw two record months for shipments from Brazil to all markets but especially China,” he said.

Cows stand in the fold, surrounded by a mist of smoke.
Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of beef and China is the world’s largest importer of beef. The two nations are not currently trading.(Reuters: Bruno Kelly)

“We understand up to 4,000 containers [of beef] sat on the quay in China, unable to get in… and only today have China’s customs authorities accepted [some] Brazilian beef products with health certificates dated before September 4th.

“Meanwhile, certain vessels with meat on board have returned to Brazil, and there are reports of other vessels going to other destinations to find new homes for that meat.”

Sir. Quilty said Brazil, facing trade restrictions, has now fallen to a 17-year low, putting pressure on global beef supplies, which were already extremely tight.

He said Australian cattle producers, who are enjoying record high prices, should expect global demand to remain strong next year.

What happens if the United States bans Brazilian beef?

Sir. Quilty said it was not surprising to hear that U.S. cattle producers are demanding a ban on Brazilian beef.

“The fact that China still does not accept anything new [beef] “Products from Brazil are likely to give much more confidence to this desire to have a ban introduced in North America,” he said.

A block of frozen beef pieces sits on a tiled surface
If the United States bans Brazilian beef, will other countries follow suit?(Delivered)

He said that if the United States bans Brazilian beef, it would have huge consequences for global beef trade.

“The consequence is not so much that the United States no longer imports 60,000 tons [of beef] from Brazil, but that’s the signal a US ban would send to the rest of the world, “Quilty said.

“If the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) says we do not want your meat and we want to investigate your systems, I think we will see a number of other countries around the world also ban Brazilian beef.”

The Brazilian Beef Exporters Association has been contacted for comment.

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