First shipment of U.S. beef is headed to China

(l-r)Greater Omaha Packing president Henry Davis, Nebraska ag director Greg Ibach and Nebraska governor Pete Ricketts help load the first shipment of beef to China.

U.S. beef is headed to China for the first time in more than 13 years.

The first shipment of beef under the new agreement between the U.S. and China left Greater Omaha Packing Company in Omaha on Wednesday.

Plant president Henry Davis says they have been preparing for the reopening of the Chinese market for some time. He says they were able to act quickly because they already have a program in place that meets China’s requirements.

“The fact that we sell to 68 countries—now 69—means we’re very used to dealing with the regulations and with the export specifications and criteria. But we’ve been focused on this for a long time,” Davis says.

Nebraska governor Pete Ricketts says the Chinese market holds tremendous potential.

“The Chinese market has gone from being worth about 139 million dollars in 2010 to being worth about 2.58 billion dollars in 2015,” Ricketts says. “That is tremendous growth as we see that rising middle class in China demanding higher quality products and more protein.”

Nebraska ag director Greg Ibach says his department will be working with cattle and beef groups and others to step up promotions of Nebraska beef in China.

“We’re going to kick it up a gear or two and get into high speed, looking for opportunities to do promotional events, to inform Chinese consumers about the opportunities they have to purchase U.S. beef—and specifically ask for beef from Nebraska,” Ibach says.

Davis says the interest from Chinese beef buyers appears to be very strong.

“We have had, in the last two months, literally hundreds of phone calls from companies and representatives from China that want to do business with us,” Davis says. “Since the (plant) approved list came out late yesterday afternoon, we’ve had over 20 calls.”

The first load shipped to China was an airship container of boxed beef consisting of steaks. Officials say they aren’t sure how quickly the Chinese market for beef will grow, but they’re hopeful that once the Chinese get a taste of U.S. beef, they’ll be back for more.

China stopped importing U.S. beef in 2003 following the discovery of a single case of BSE in Washington state.

AUDIO: News conference at Greater Omaha Packing Company


Thanks to RRN for help with the audio.

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