U.S. beef has made its way back to grocery stores and menus in the most populated country in the world, China. On June 30, a delegation of U.S. trade representatives including Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Ambassador to China Terry Branstad celebrated the return of U.S. beef in Beijing.

“Beef is a big deal in China and I'm convinced that when the Chinese people get a taste of U.S. beef, they're going to want more of it. These products coming into China are safe, wholesome, and very delicious,” Perdue says.

At a ceremony in Beijing, a prime rib from Nebraska was cut into marking the arrival of U.S. beef by Perdue; Craig Uden, president of National Cattlemen's Beef Association; and Luan Richeng, of state-owned Chinese importer COFCO.

“Restoring U.S. beef access to China has been a top priority for many years, and we are excited to have the opportunity to provide Chinese consumers with safe, tender, and delicious U.S. beef once again,” Uden says.

Walmart’s Sam’s Club store in Beijing was the first retail outlet in China to obtain a shipment of beef from the U.S. It hit the shelves on June 27.

“For the first time in 13 years, Sam’s Club is bringing prime- and choice-grade short ribs from Nebraska to China, all delivered using a 30-hour cold chain,” according to a statement by Walmart.

The USDA reports that beef from processors in Nebraska and Kansas are currently eligible for export to the Chinese market.

Nebraska was represented at the event by Nebraska Department of Agriculture Director Greg Ibach. “Nebraska leads the nation in beef exports and commercial red meat production, and China is the second largest importer of beef in the world,” Ibach says.

According to officials in Nebraska four of the six eligible suppliers that are currently approved to ship beef to China are located in the state. 

“We are working to ensure that Nebraska beef will be well represented in the Chinese marketplace,” says Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts. “Nebraska stands to benefit greatly by capturing a share of China’s beef import market which was estimated to be $2.5 billion in 2016.”

Iowa appears to have recently received approval for export with Iowa Premium announcing on June 29 the company’s authorization to ship beef to China.

“We are excited to supply Chinese consumers with consistent, high-quality, family farm-raised, Black Angus beef products,” says Jeffrey Johnson, CEO of Iowa Premium. “Iowa Premium believes China will be an excellent export partner and we look forward to building a long sustainable relationship.”

Beef trade with China has been halted since late 2003 after the discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in the U.S. During the past 13.5 years, China has become a major consumer of beef going from $275 million in beef imports 2012 to $2.5 billion in 2016.

A deal between the U.S. and China was brokered by the Trump Administration on May 11 part of the U.S.-China 100-Day Action Plan.

USDA announced the finalized export protocols on June 12, enabling U.S. beef to enter China. Export requirements into China include:

  • Cattle must be identifiable to the farm or ranch they were born on in the U.S. For cattle imported to China they must be traceable through their port of entry.
  • Beef must come from cattle 30 months of age or younger.
  • Chilled or frozen bone-in and deboned beef products are eligible for shipment.
  • Carcasses, beef, and beef products must be uniquely identified and controlled up until the time of shipment.

The first shipment of U.S. beef from Greater Omaha Packing Co. arrived on June 19.

Perdue and members of the trade delegation held meetings with Vice Premier Wang Yang and Minister of Agriculture Han Changfu, to discuss expanding trade between the countries. A tour of a major Chinese supermarket where other American products are offered is planned in Shanghai on July 1.