Recent negotiations at
the G-20 Agriculture Ministerial Meeting
in Japan resulted in the lifting of Japan’s
longtime restrictions on U.S. beef imports,
including the 30-month cattle age limit.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced
that Secretary Sonny Perdue met
with Japanese government officials and assured
them of “the importance of sciencebased
Japan’s new cattle import rules took
effect immediately after the May 17 announcement,
according to the USDA.
“This is great news for American ranchers
and exporters who now have full access
to the Japanese market for their highquality,
safe, wholesome, and delicious
U.S. beef,” Secretary Perdue said. “We
are hopeful that Japan’s decision will help
lead other markets around the world toward
Japan was a top export market for U.S.
beef, importing about $1.4 billion worth in
2003 before it stopped, citing concerns over
bovine spongiform encephalopathy – BSE
or “Mad Cow Disease.”
Japan (and other countries) imposed age
restrictions during worldwide concerns
about its spread.
In December 2003, Japan banned U.S.
beef and beef products after a BSE-positive
animal was detected in the United States. In
2005, Japan restored partial access for U.S.
beef muscle cuts and offal items from cattle
that were 20 months of age and younger.
In 2013, Japan extended access to include
beef and beef products from cattle less than
30 months of age.
“In April 2017, Japan eliminated its agebased
BSE testing on domestic Japanese
cattle, paving the way for similar age-based
restrictions to be lifted on negligible BSErisk
trading partners, including the United
States,” according to the USDA.
On Jan. 15, Japan’s Food Safety Commission
concluded eliminating the age restriction
for beef from the United States,
Canada and Ireland posed a negligible risk
to human health. Based on the FSC risk assessment,
Japan began consultations with
the United States to revise its import requirements
in order to align with the BSE
guidelines of the World Organization for
The USDA estimates U.S. beef and beef
product exports to Japan could bring in
$150 million to $200 million a year.
“This is wonderful news for ranchers
and farmers in Wyoming and across the
country,” said Wyoming’s U.S. Sen. Mike
Enzi. “I am glad that sound science finally
won out and that Japan has fully opened its
doors to the best beef in the world. Japan is
one of Wyoming’s biggest export markets
and this decision will help continue our important
The U.S. Meat Export Federation works
with livestock industries, trade representatives
and governments to improve foreign
“While most of the U.S. beef shipped to
Japan will continue to be from fed cattle
under 30 months of age, the opportunities
for over-30-month beef cuts and beef
variety meat are significant,” said Dan
Halstrom, USMEF president and CEO.
“USMEF estimates that removal of the cattle
age restriction will increase exports to
Japan by 7 to 10 percent, or by $150 million
to $200 million per year.
He added, “Beef muscle cuts from over-
30-month cattle that are most likely to
achieve success with Japanese buyers include
short plate, chuckeye rolls, short ribs,
middle meats, clods and briskets. Beef variety
meat items most likely to be in demand
include outside skirts, hanging tenders,
mountain chain tripe, tongues, abomasum
“The ability to use beef from over-30-
month cattle will also lower costs for companies
exporting processed beef products
to Japan. But for the U.S. industry to fully
capitalize on this growth opportunity, U.S.
beef needs to be on a level playing field in
Japan. So USMEF is also anxious to see
progress in the U.S.-Japan trade negotiations.”