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Jeff Mafi

Jeff Mafi

Association Perspective

Age and source premiums on the horizon with final China beef trade deal.

Beef trade negotiations between the United States and China finalized June 12 after a 14-year absence. Here are a few of the aspects of the agreement according to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service.

China will accept U.S. fresh, chilled and frozen products, including bone-in, boneless and ground beef. China will not accept synthetic hormones in beef and plans to test beef upon arrival. If traces of naturally occurring hormones are above those naturally occurring in cattle, the beef will be rejected.

The agreement also included “bookend” traceability. Cattle must be traceable to the U.S. birth farm using a unique identifier, or, if imported, to the first place of residence or port of entry. Beef and beef products must be derived from cattle less than 30 months of age.

So, producers who want their cattle to be eligible will need to have them enrolled in a third-party certification program, such as AngusSource® or Gateway. Both programs are USDA Process Verified Programs (PVP) for age and source. Enrollment of the ranch of origin will need to take place, and tags will need to be in place when cattle arrive at the packing facility. AngusSource- and Gateway-enrolled cattle have their age verified through the program already.

Beef from animals will need to be 30 months or younger, and China has agreed to accept USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) standards, meaning all federally inspected plants will be eligible for export.

Obviously, it will take some time for the United States to gain market share and to establish enough supply to meet their potential demand. According to the USDA, China has emerged as a major beef buyer in recent years, with imports increasing from $275 million in 2012 to $2.5 billion in 2016. The United States is the world’s largest beef producer and was the world’s fourth-largest exporter, with global sales of more than $5.4 billion in 2016. Until the ban caused by bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) took effect in 2003, the United States was China’s largest supplier of imported beef, providing 70% of their total intake.

What does this mean to producers now that this trade agreement is finalized? Plan ahead and take advantage of opportunities that source-verification programs should provide, and position your calf crop for premiums regardless of whether you sell at weaning or after the finishing period; those calves should naturally be worth more.

There are two American Angus Association value-added programs designed to help market calves for source and age premiums. AngusSource is a USDA PVP for Angus-sired calves that documents source, group age and a minimum of 50% Angus genetics (all calves must be sired by registered Angus bulls). A second tier of AngusSource PVP called Gateway verifies source and group age only.

Following are five basic steps to enroll a calf crop.

  1. Step 1
    Download the AngusSource/Gateway producer participant enrollment form/agreement at
  2. Step 2
    Complete the AngusSource/Gateway producer participant enrollment form/agreement and send it with copies of your calving records for the group of calves you wish to enroll. If you have questions, please call the AngusSource department at 816-383-5100. Send your enrollment form and records via fax, email or mail — fax: 816-383-5195; email:; or mail: AngusSource; 3201 Frederick; Saint Joseph, MO 64506.
  3. Step 3
    Once your AngusSource/Gateway producer participant enrollment form/agreement is received, an AngusSource administrator will schedule your phone training. When training is completed, the AngusSource administrator will guide you through the remainder of the enrollment process. Each enrolled calf will be issued an official program-compliant ear tag in one of three options: visual, radio frequency identification (RFID) or ChoiceSet. AngusSource program-compliant ear tags are white, and Gateway program tags are yellow.
  4. Step 4
    Tag each enrolled calf before it leaves your operation with an official program tag.
  5. Step 5
    Complete the Marketing Document online through AAA Login or call AngusSource, 816-383-5100.

    There is a $50 fee per enrollment group and a $15 shipping fee. Tag costs are $1.25 per visual tag, $2.25 per RFID and $3.25 per ChoiceSet (includes a visual and an RFID tag for one calf).

For more information on export requirements to China, visit the AMS Export Verification Program or the FSIS Export Library.

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Editor’s Note: Jeff Mafi is regional manager for Kansas and Oklahoma. Click here to find the regional manager for your state.

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