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Global beef roundup: Canadian plant approval widens export routes

Clint Peck Published on 01 April 2011

0411pc_peck_1The list of Canadian beef processors eligible to export to Russia now includes eastern Canada’s largest packer.

Cargill Meat Solutions says its application for certification for its beef plant at Guelph, Ontario, has been recognized by Russian regulatory authorities.

Several other Canadian processors have been cleared to ship to Russia, but approval for Cargill’s Guelph operation “was critical for eastern Canadian beef producers,” the company said.

The former Better Beef plant, which Cargill bought in 2005, is one of the biggest integrated beef packing sites in Canada and can process up to about 1,500 cattle per day.

Cargill said it will now work with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to facilitate the trade of beef and related products.

“Ontario and Quebec beef cattle producers will directly benefit with another export market open for business,” Len Penner, president of Cargill’s Canadian operations, said in the company’s release.

The U.S.-based agri-food giant’s Canadian meat packing wing noted it’s already been supplying some Russian demand through its largest beef plant, at High River, Alberta.

Total exports from the company’s beef operations in western Canada significantly increased in 2010 over 2009, the company said, calling 2010 a “breakout year” for its beef business in the Canadian west.

Argentine beef exports during 2010 declined 57 percent on 2009, to 166,265 metric tons (MT) as beef production contracted an estimated 23 percent, to 2.6 million MT.

The combination of government intervention and previous drought years resulted in a sharp decline in the cattle herd to 2009, with rebuilding efforts in 2010 accentuating the production decline.

Beef exports peaked at 432,653 MT in 2005. However, the government intervention aimed at maintaining beef supplies and prices for the domestic market was largely unsuccessful.

The sharp drop in 2010 beef production resulted in an estimated 16 percent fall in domestic beef consumption (to 125 pounds per person per annum), while domestic beef prices soared.

Although Russia remained Argentina’s main export market in 2010, shipments there plummeted 75 percent year-on-year, to 35,679 MT. Israel was Argentina’s second-largest market in 2010, followed by Germany and Chile.

Argentinean exports during 2011 are expected to remain steady, to possibly lower on 2010 levels, with production anticipated to decrease to around 2.5 million MT.

After reaching 55.6 million head in 2006, Argentinean cattle contracted to 48.6 million head in 2010 – the lowest level since 1964.

Brazilian cattle prices are expected to remain high throughout 2011, underpinned by the continuation of steady production and rising domestic and export demand.

Although total Brazilian cattle slaughter was estimated to have increased between 1 to 2 percent in 2010, surging demand in both domestic and export markets pushed prices higher.

Last year Brazilian cattle prices averaged 27 percent higher, with prices peaking at U.S. $1.04/pound in the first week of November.

Since the herd liquidation of 2004 to 2006, the Brazilian cattle industry has been trying to rebuild numbers, with female cattle retention rising.

Local analysts expect that higher cattle supplies, the result of increased calf production since 2007, will begin to hit the market in late 2011 or early 2012.

However, the relatively stronger demand will limit any impact on prices from an increase in supply price, according to reports from Meat Trade News Daily.

Processors, which have struggled with low capacity utilization after a period of strong expansion since the mid-2000s, are again expected to have a profitable and growing domestic market competing for export product throughout 2011.

The Obama administration is proposing a new inspection and monitoring regime to permit long-haul trucks from Mexico on U.S. highways after years of delays over safety concerns and political wrangling.

The Transportation Department’s compromise seeks to revive efforts toward a key provision of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which is highly unpopular with labor but supported by many businesses as a cost advantage.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called the plan by his agency a starting point to renew negotiations with Mexico, which has slapped tariffs on U.S. products over the delay.

The Transportation Department said the plan, which would eventually need congressional and Mexican government approval, would prioritize safety and that a formal proposal is due to be announced in coming months.

United Kingdom
Scientists in Britain have developed the most accurate blood test yet for the human form of BSE, but a more generally applicable screening test for a healthy population is still some way off.

Researchers at University College London have developed a test prototype which is 100,000 times more sensitive than previous methods, capable of detecting tiny amounts of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD)-causing particles, or “prions,” in human blood.

The British research team tested 190 blood samples, including 21 from people known to have vCJD. The prototype blood test was able to detect blood spiked with a dilution of vCJD to within one part per 10 billion – 100,000 times more sensitive than any other method developed so far. Medical circles have been enthusiastic about the progress.

Experts say the disease affects about one person in every million per year worldwide, but prions, the infectious proteins which cause vCJD, can inhabit a person’s body for up to 50 years before presenting symptoms.  end_mark

Clint Peck is the owner of Global Beef Systems, LLC. Contact him at

Total exports from [Cargill’s] beef operations in western Canada significantly increased in 2010 over 2009, the company said, calling 2010 a “breakout year” for its beef business in the Canadian west. Photo courtesy of Thinkstock Images.