U.S. meat group concerned about Mexico’s proposed beef grading standards

Assessment reveals new standards similar to U.S. but "watered down."

The government of Mexico recently opened a proceeding wherein it proposed new grading standards for Mexican beef. The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) said the proposed standards appear to be modeled after the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s beef grading standards, but concern arose when a deeper assessment revealed noticeable differences.

Thad Lively, USMEF senior vice president for trade access, explained that this could create confusion in the marketplace and diminish the value that the U.S. beef industry derives from the USDA grading system.

“On the surface, it looks like their grading system is actually very similar to ours, but then our technical experts here at USMEF have dug into the details, and they’ve identified a number of areas where the actual standard that would be applied in Mexico is considerably, I’d say, watered down from the standard here in the U.S.,” Lively said. “So, you could end up with product that was carrying the same English language grade name but that was totally different, and so that is, of course, a source of concern to us, whether it’s here in the U.S. market or in other export markets where Mexico is making a real commitment to building a presence.”

USMEF said significant differences make interchangeable use of the English and Spanish grade names problematic, including differences in marbling scores and in the proposed procedures for determining carcass grades.

Mexico’s Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries & Food accepted public comments on the proposal through Dec. 19. USMEF filed comments in this proceeding, raising concerns about how English grade names could be used interchangeably with Spanish names.

“We have submitted comments to the Mexican government; we’ve expressed our concern about the damage that this grading system could do to the value of U.S. beef that’s tied back to the USDA grading system and the confusion that it could cause in the markets,” Lively said, adding that the USDA grading system has been fundamental to introducing U.S. beef to markets all around the world.

It’s something that everybody in the industry is very proud of, and it’s a really big part of the message we carry overseas, he added.

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