U.S. BEEF INDUSTRY TARGETS JAPAN

DENVER - The U.S. Meat Export Federation here plans to put American beef back on Japanese dinner tables, now that Japanese markets have re-opened to beef from the States."What the Australians have done is capitalize on a large share of our market," said Lynn Heinze, spokesman for the federation. "During the last year, we had 24 other countries muscle in on that share. Australia has had the most success.

DENVER - The U.S. Meat Export Federation here plans to put American beef back on Japanese dinner tables, now that Japanese markets have re-opened to beef from the States.

"What the Australians have done is capitalize on a large share of our market," said Lynn Heinze, spokesman for the federation. "During the last year, we had 24 other countries muscle in on that share. Australia has had the most success. They've done a good job but we expect to take them on and get some of that share back. We'll do promotions and public relations."

American beef producers who want to export to Japan have conditions to meet under the new agreement. Just over two dozen approved plants can ship product to Japan under a beef export verification program overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Marketing Service, Heinze said. Among other requirements, the program calls for producers to verify the age of the animal. The United States can only export beef from cattle 20 months of age or younger.

Many U.S. producers are not able to document the age of their cattle, said Kim Essex, spokeswoman for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. Moving forward on age identification systems is a priority.

"We have an age identification process we need to ramp up," Essex said. "Producers have records of sale and movement. To actually have birth records hasn't been a requirement. Now it is a requirement."