Japan fully opens for all U.S. beef imports

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

trade rules.”

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

science-based policies.”

BSE background

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

Animal Health.

Good news

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

trade relations.”

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

and intestines.

“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.”