The country may be starting to beef up. By the end of September, US beef exports to China reached about a thousand metric tons for a total of $12.5 million since the export ban was lifted in May, according to the US Meat Export Federation.
A saleswoman explains advantages of beef imported from the US to a customer at a supermarket in Shanghai. [Photo/Xinhua]
The country potentially represents a $2.6 billion market for US beef products, so US exports have a lot of room for growth.
Industry experts, however, attribute the slow growth to two major factors: short supply and hefty prices.
Beef exported to China must meet stringent requirements, including no growth hormones. Currently, supplies meeting those requirements are rather small, and raising cattle that meet those standards takes about two years starting with a calf, said Pete Bonds, a rancher in Saginaw, Texas, and a past-president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association.
Bonds said that while it takes time to develop China-specific beef products, meeting the Chinese requirement also increases costs.
"We hoped to be able to export a lot of beef to China's middle class, but by not using growth hormones the price will be prohibitive. Currently most US beef is sold only in major cities like Shanghai and Beijing," Bonds said.
USDA Prime rib eye sells for nearly $60 a pound in Shanghai, according to media reports.