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Namibian beef hits U.S.

by admin

Published May 2, 2020

            After decades of negotiations, Namibian beef was officially approved to be imported into the United States in February 2020. In late April, the first shipments arrived at a port in Philadelphia. This will be the first time in history the United States has imported beef from an African nation.

Logistics

            According to the Namibian, a news outlet for the African nation, the country has previously initiated negotiations the U.S. in 2002 and 2005 with the intention of sending boneless, raw beef products such as Prime cuts, chuck, blade and beef trimmings.

            Namibian meat processor Meatco will be providing the products, which will be labeled as grass-fed and hormone-and-antibiotic-free. The company has been audited by the USDA and deemed equivalent to U.S. establishments.

            The country also underwent audits conducted by the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service.

            Boston-based Verde Farms will be the importer for these products. The company prides itself on supporting farmers globally and “allowing cattle to feed on pasture the way nature intended.”

            Reuters reports the country is expected to send 860 tons of various beef cuts to the U.S. in 2020, with that amount expected to raise to over 5,000 tons by 2025.

            “Namibia will benefit economically from tapping into the largest consumer market with purchasing power of $13 trillion, and U.S. consumers will benefit from access to Namibia’s high-quality, free-range, grass-fed beef,” U.S. Ambassador to Namibia Lisa Johnson, says.

Industry reactions

            This announcement, however, has not been kindly welcomed by many cattle producers amidst the COVID-19 crisis, as many U.S. producers have been forced to euthanize animals due to closed or limited capacity of packing plants.

            Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton questioned the safety of the products.

            “From my perspective, I think the optics of this doesn’t look very good when our producers are seeing a significant erosion of their beef income at the same time we’re opening things up to Namibia,” Hamilton says. “Farm Bureau does support country of origin labeling (COOL). Some folks have argued a COOL label isn’t a health and safety label, but I think there is still a concern about the safety of some of the beef from some of these countries because of their health and safety inspection programs.”

            He continues, “We know in Brazil there were certainly some less than effective health and safety programs, and I fear there are other countries who might experience the same types of issues.”

            Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) Executive Vice President Jim Magagna notes he is disappointed to see a U.S. processor turn to imported beef in a time of crisis for many American producers.

            “While WSGA is very disappointed that a U.S. processor chose to import Namibian beef at a time when our producers are facing a backed-up supply of cattle, this will have very limited overall impact on the U.S. supply chain,” says Magagna. “According to the information I have received, 27 metric tons of Namibian trim meat was imported. U.S. processors regularly import lean trim to blend with U.S. beef from a variety of countries.”

            He continues, “Because Namibia does not have a trade agreement with the U.S., the amount they could import is subject to the overall combined quota of 60,000 metric tons from all non-trade agreement countries.”

            Callie Hanson is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to roundup@wylr.net.

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