“Prior to Canada finding BSE in (cattle), in 2003, Korea was taking up to 25 per cent of our beef exports,” said Mark Elford, president of the Saskatchewan Cattleman’s Association.

 Bovine spongiform encephalopathy is a disease which affects a cow’s nervous system. It causes the cow to lose control of its ability to do things such as walk straight.

As a result of BSE, many ranches were not able to turn a profit. So the recent announcement is exciting news for many. Elford said ranchers see it as a step toward improving their financial situation. He noted that a number of beef producers, particularly smaller ones, have left the beef industry over the past few years because of financial concerns related to the lack of production.

The recent press coverage pertaining to the reopening of the Korean beef market “puts optimism in the business,” said Dave Grajczyk, a cattle rancher, west of Moose Jaw.

He said the difficulty the industry has had over the past few years has been with outside perceptions and attitudes toward Canadian beef. It is risky for producers to depend heavily only on the U.S. market.

In May 2003, South Korea was one of many beef importing countries to ban Canadian products after the detection of Canada’s first BSE case. Prior to this, South Korea was Canada’s fourth largest export market. It was the last significant market to maintain full prohibition against Canadian beef trade.

 Stats Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada figures show Canadian beef exports to South Korea were 21,000 tons in 2000. This accounted for $99 million in revenue. In the last full year of trade before the ban, Canada exported 17,342 tons of beef products to South Korea. This represented about five per cent of the market share of Korea’s beef imports.

 “There is some optimism out there and it is fun to be a part of that,” said Elford.

He is, however, cautious. “Just because Korea said they will accept imports into their country doesn’t mean that there isn’t going to be a big push back from that country’s citizens.”

Until beef actually starts being exported back into Korea, the financial benefits to Canadian producers won’t be known.

Elford said he hopes producers are able to make up the losses they suffered over the past nine years once the Korean market is fully operational again.

Adding to the multitude of beef stories in the media was a recent Penn State University study which examined the health benefits of lean beef. Penny Kris-Etherton was one of the researchers.

With an increasing number of health-conscious persons eliminating beef from their diets because they erroneously believe it is unhealthy, Kris-Etherton said she felt it was time to scientifically prove that small portions of lean meat are beneficial to people’s health.

The study found that lean beef diets lowered cholesterol levels.

“People who are on a cholesterol-lowering diet don’t have to eliminate lean beef to achieve cholesterol lowering responses from diet,” Kris-Etherton said. “That is the key message (from the study).”

Current Health Canada guidelines already recommend that the consumption of lean beef be a part of regular meal choices. They recommend a serving be no more than 75g of cooked meat. Beef is rich in protein, zinc, phosphorus and iron.

 

John B. Pluck (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) is a contributing reporter for the University of Regina School Of Journalism’s 2012 weeklies newswire service. He is a former intern of the Western Producer (Saskatoon newsroom) and will graduate in Spring, 2012.