Grading System to Verify Cattle Age

USDA contends that age can be determined by meat quality to Japanese government.

USDA will offer Japan a new approach to verifying the age of cattle. It is based on USDA's longtime method of grading meat quality.

According to Dow Jones, on Thursday and Friday experts from both the U.S. and Japan will hold a meeting to look into ways to verify the age of cattle head of Tokyo's planned partial resumption of U.S. beef imports.

A U.S. task force is working on the issue slaughtered cattle whose age could be verified, then examined the quality of the meat. The report to go to the Japanese will contend that age can be determined by meat quality.

Once it gets USDA's report, Japanese ag officials will analyze the effectiveness of the method. Determining the age of exported cattle has been a key stumbling block in reopening the Japanese market to U.S. beef.

This would be a new use for USDA's grading system, according to agency spokeswoman Julie Quick. "While maturity factors are grading considerations, grading has not in the past been used specifically to determine age," she says.

A joint study panel of Japan's farm ministry and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare on the issue has raised doubts about such an approach. Kyodo reports that the panel will hold a meeting early next month to examine the U.S. report on the issue, the ministry says.

In another development, a local government official in Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, says that a 20-month-old Holstein bull may have mad cow disease. If confirmed, the bull would be younger than Japan's other previous young cases and possibly complicate trade negotiations with the U.S. However, scientists have indicated that currently available testing methods make it unlikely.

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