Beef market unaffected by BSE scare

By Korea Herald
  • Published : May 1, 2012 - 19:34
  • Updated : May 2, 2012 - 09:56
Sales at major retailers rise despite a big drop in demand for U.S. meat

Beef supply and demand in Korea have seen little change since a case of mad cow disease was discovered in the U.S. last week, the Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said Tuesday.

Several local retailers suspended sales of American beef on April 24 on news that a dairy cow in California was infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, but most of them resumed sales three days later.

The volume of beef sales by eight major retailers including E-Mart, Lotte Mart, Homeplus and Nonghyup Hanaro Club in the three days to last Thursday rose 3.3 percent from a week ago.

Sales volume of Korean beef gained 3.5 percent, while U.S. beef dropped 19.8 percent and the rest of the imported beef surged 4.4 percent.

Unlike in 2003, the BSE case in the U.S. did not have a huge impact on the Korean beef market because the introduction of origin labeling in restaurants and beef tracing system since 2008 raised consumers’ trust, the ministry said.

Wholesale prices of homebred cattle, or hanwoo, have also maintained stability despite the BSE outbreak.

The price of a 600-kilogram male cow, which was around 5.4 million won ($4,700) in March, hit 5.69 million won on April 24, 5.65 million won on April 26 and 5.66 million won on April 27.

Beef cattle were traded at 3.23 million won, 3.12 million won and 3.11 million won per head, respectively.

The ministry said it will continue to check major retailers’ beef sales trends, push for sales of meat from female homebred cattle at discount prices and promote the safety of hanwoo to stabilize the beef supply and demand.

In the meantime, a team of Korean government officials and civilian experts said Monday they will try to see if there is any problem in the processing of U.S. beef for export.

The eight-member delegation arrived in Washington earlier in the day on a 10-day mission amid persistent doubts among the Korean public over the safety of American beef.

“We were notified by the U.S. government of the BSE case in the U.S. We will accurately check the contents of the notification and will conduct more investigation, if necessary, for the health and safety of our people,” Joo E-suk, head of the team, told reporters.

The team will also review whether U.S. beef imported by Korea is produced under proper health-related safety measures, added the official in charge of quarantine affairs at the ministry.

The inspection team is scheduled to visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday and meet related officials, including Dr. John Clifford, the USDA’s chief veterinarian.

They also plan to go to Iowa later Tuesday for discussions with officials at the National Veterinary Services Laboratories, as well as tour some dairy farms, slaughterhouses and fodder plants for checks of safety standards.

By Kim So-hyun and news reports