U.S. issues permits for some boneless Canadian beef

CALGARY (Aug. 29, 2003) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture began issuing import permits for boneless Canadian beef yesterday, three days before originally planed.

The USDA began issuing permits to U.S. importers, paving the way for the first shipments of beef to move across the border in over three months. The U.S. closed the border to all Canadian beef and live cattle exports after a single cow was found to contain mad cow disease on May 20.

Products to get the green light for export into the U.S. include: boneless meat from cattle under the age of 30 months; boneless meat from sheep and goats under the age of 12 months; veal from calves 36 weeks or younger; fresh or frozen cattle liver; pet foods; vaccines for non-ruminant animals; and meat from wild ruminants, such as elk, for personal use.

It’s hoped the easing of the ban would give some relief to the devastated $8 billion industry. About 4,200 lost jobs have been attributed to the ban, and it’s said to be costing industry about $11 million in exports a day. That number nearly triples when related industries like trucking and slaughterhouses are included.

But Donna St. John, owner of St. John’s Transportation in Calgary — a 10-truck carrier of boxed meat — told Today’s Trucking in a recent interview that she doesn’t expect the partial lifting of the ban will have much affect on the domestic market. She that while 60 per cent of Alberta’s beef industry is built on exports, most of that is tied into live cattle, and doesn’t anticipate the overcrowded domestic beef market to open up dramatically.

The next step in the process would be for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to verify American requirements that the meat in Canada can only come from plants that are dedicated to cattle under 30 months of age. Canada is insisting that older and younger cattle to be split into separate groups but slaughtered in the same facility, Alain Charette, a CFIA media relations officer told Canadian Press. “The Americans want to separate the plants, we want to separate the animals,” Charette told the news agency. “Discussions are still ongoing. This is the main issue.”

There is no word, however, on how much beef might initially cross the border. Live cattle remain banned in all markets.

–with files from CP

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