Japan began restricting the importation of beef from the United States in 2003 as the result of a scare about possible contamination of U.S. herds by mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy - BSE). Even though what started out as a total ban was later eased, some restrictions were kept in place until last month.
On Jan. 28, Japan announced that the remaining prohibitions have been eased. Until then, beef from animals older than 20 months had been banned. Now the age limit has been raised to 30 months, which is widely recognized as the industry standard.
That's good news for U.S. beef producers because Japan is a voracious consumer of imported beef. Even before this welcome regulatory change, according to The Associated Press, Japan was one of the most important foreign markets for the American beef industry.
Iowa will be a major beneficiary of this policy revision by the Japanese government. The Hawkeye State has roughly 4 million head of cattle. According to data from the beef industry, it adds $5.1 billion to the Iowa economy each year and generates jobs for roughly 40,000 of our fellow Iowans.
Iowa has long been a leading worldwide exporter of beef. This positive development in Japan should make an already strong Iowa industry even more robust. Our state sets the standard nationally for high-quality beef. Japanese consumers long ago recognized that fact. They can be expected to respond to this change in import rules by purchasing even more of this outstanding product.
The Messenger applauds this significant policy change. It's very good news for Iowa beef producers and an equally positive development for beef lovers in Japan.