Something calamitous happened to the US beef industry back in 2003.
Exports of American beef to a number of countries—including Canada, China, Japan, Mexico, and South Korea—were banned after mad cow disease was uncovered at a Washington State dairy. But now, the Trump administration has finalized negotiations that began under President Obama, and beef will once again be exported to China.
Needless to say, the American beef industry is pretty damn psyched to see the massive Chinese market open up once again. "The demand in China for high-quality US beef is high, so opening the market offers great potential for our businesses and the US economy as a whole," said Barry Carpenter, the President and CEO of the North American Meat Institute.
And the Chinese demand for beef is growing rapidly. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said that thanks to the new accord, the US meat industry "will be regaining access to an enormous market with an ever-expanding middle class." China currently imports around $2.6 billion of beef per year, and American meat producers obviously want in on that market.
Greater Omaha Packing Co. is one company that already has its food in the door. The Nebraska meat purveyors sent a test shipment of 40 boxes of steaks to China on Wednesday.
Dan Jensen, vice president of sales and marketing at Greater Omaha Packing said, "This will be the first of many shipments." The company has hired Chinese-speaking marketing experts and says it has received hundreds of calls from Chinese companies expressing their interest in importing Nebraskan beef. Henry Davis, the CEO of the meat packing company, said at a news conference on Wednesday, "China has the potential to be the largest market for US beef."
Nebraska Governor Pete Rickets agreed. "This is a big deal," he said. "Beef is our number one industry here in this state. We're the largest commercial red beef-producing state and the largest state for cattle on feed. And we're the largest beef-exporting state." In exchange for allowing American beef back into China, the US has agreed to allow the sale of cooked Chinese poultry in the US.
"I have no doubt that as soon as the Chinese people get a taste of American beef, they'll want more of it," exclaimed Perdue.