China opens door to Canadian tallow

Banned after BSE discovered | Deal could be worth more than $110 million for Canada

China has agreed to accept Canadian tallow, the first stage toward broader access for beef products banned since 2003.

The announcement came Feb. 8 during a Canadian trade mission to China that included prime minister Stephen Harper and a large contingent of agricultural representatives.

The CanadianCattlemens Association says total tallow and beef exports could exceed $110 million once full trade is restoredy.

China was the top export market for Canadian industrial tallow in 2002, which is used in soaps, cosmetics, waxes, biodiesel and lubricants.

Most tallow has been used domestically in Canada since 2003, when the discovery of BSE shut the country out of many beef export markets, said Ken Ingram of West Coast Reductions in Vancouver.

Under world animal health guidelines, tallow is allowed only .15 percent impurities, which is mostly traces of protein.

Ingram adopted a wait and see attitude to the announcement.

“An announcement is one thing. Trade is another,” he said.

China agreed in June 2010 to restore access for Canadian beef and beef products in stages.

The next stage is persuading China to accept more Canadian processing facilities, said John Masswohl of the CCA.

“It has taken some time to get the technical details worked out.”

Three facilities have been approved to provide boneless beef from cattle younger than 30 months and more are needed because many smaller plants may be well positioned to fill Chinese requirements.

The Chinese do not accept meat with ractopamine residues. A smaller facility may be better able to gather cattle that meet that specification than a large, high volume plant.

“Our feeling is it is important to get additional facilities approved. Smaller facilities are in a better position because they may already have approval for special products like natural beef,” he said.

The final stage is approval for bone-in product from cattle of all ages.

Canadian beef is already accepted in Hong Kong and Macau, and some probably enters the mainland.

“We have noticed our per capita shipments to Hong Kong and Macau are very high. If we are going to go in the front door, we have to meet their regulations,” Masswohl said.

It is difficult to estimate the trade potential with China because good statistics on the size of its national cow herd and meat production are hard to verify.

“As countries increase their per capita income and disposable wealth, they consume more beef,” he said.

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