Cow that Stole Christmas Resulted in Stronger Trade Agreements with International Markets

Listen to Ron Hays talk with Don Close for Part 2 of The Cow That Stole Christmas.

Senior Farm and Ranch Broadcaster Ron Hays is back talking with Terrain’s Chief Research and Analytics Officer, Don Close, for part two about the cow that stole Christmas in 2003.

Close said the biggest impact of the first case of BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) in the U.S. 20 years ago was on exports.

“Exports accounted for roughly ten percent of U.S. beef production,” Close said. “Far and away, our largest customer at that time was Japan. Overnight, our exports went from ten percent of production to zero, or essentially zero. We had that additional tonnage of product on the domestic market that only further compounded the erosion in the beef market.”

Close said it took months of negotiations with Japan to reopen the market.
“Initially, we were aging all of the cattle, and we were implementing the 30-month rule, so there were big fights over whether we were using bone ossification for age determination, or we could use dentition,” Close said.

Close added that there were also issues regarding the use of head meat.

“Packers were having to go in and remove all of that spinal cord from the split carcasses,” Close said.

As trade began to open back up, Close said other countries began to conduct their own detailed inspections.

“If they would find any piece of spinal cord material in that box, then the whole load was rejected,” Close said. “Then you were looking at the destruction of that load or returning it. The whole situation was complicated.”

In dealing with feedback from the media, Close said groups like the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association did a tremendous job with response.

“The number of interviews and the placements of interviews they were getting on the Today Show, and the evening news programs, and every opportunity they had to explain to consumers that beef was still safe that all the safety protocols were in place…,” Close said.

The government also did its job in reassuring the public that beef was safe to consume as they worked on a country-to-country basis to reestablish trade.

Close said that one positive that came out of the emergency is strengthened trade agreements with other countries. In the event of another food safety issue, Close said there are negotiated procedures to be followed regarding exports.

The Beef Buzz is a regular feature heard on radio stations around the region on the Radio Oklahoma Network and is a regular audio feature found on this website as well. Click on the LISTEN BAR below for today’s show and check out our archives for older Beef Buzz shows covering the gamut of the beef cattle industry today.

CLICK HERE to listen to the full conversation with Don Close about the cow that stole Christmas on the Ag Perspectives Podcast with Ron Hays.

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