Interview: U.S. cattle producer sees great opportunity in China's beef market

Source: Xinhua| 2019-04-18 09:49:42|Editor: Li Xia
Video PlayerClose

by Xinhua writers Yang Chenglin, Zhou Xiaozheng, Yang Shilong

FORSYTH, the United States, April 17 (Xinhua) -- Proud of their natural flavored, fully traceable beef, the U.S. cattle farmers are eager to compete for the promising Chinese market and send more of their product halfway across the globe.

"It's a very high quality product, our product consistently grades high choice and prime, which is the best grade of beef," James Vaughn told Xinhua , "we think it's the best product in the world by far, and we would like the Chinese public to be able to enjoy it like we do."

With 35 years of farming experience and more than 5,000 acres of land, Vaughn is a cowboy, an attorney, as well as the 2018 Georgia farmer of the year. In his eyes, China market is a great opportunity not only for him, but also for all his fellow U.S. farmers.


As an upstream supplier of U.S. beef exporter, Vaughn recalled a memory of hope in late 2017. In early November of that year, Xinhua reported the first export of U.S. beef to China in more than 13 years, after China banned U.S. beef in December 2003 when the mad cow disease spread across U.S. cattle farms.

"I think that was the first American beef that had gone into China in a very long time," Vaughn said in his iconic American cowboy hat, jeans and boots, "and so we're hopeful."

However, that hope was clouded by the trade tensions between the United States and China, which already took toll on some of the U.S. farmers and ranchers.

"Our product is not moving in that direction," said Vaughn, "and I would like to see that change because we need an increased market for our product."

In Vaughn's eyes, a new market for American beef is not only critical for today's cattle farming business in Georgia, but also for the new generation of U.S. farmers.

"I think the feedlot industry has been shrinking, and I think that the production industry on my end has been shrinking over the last few years," said Vaughn, "some because of weather events, some because farmers like me are getting older."

"But I think there is a large group of young people like my sons that would very much like to be able to join farming," said Vaughn, "and having better markets is the way to assure them to be able to do that."


Like many cattle farmers in Georgia, the Vaughn family worked for generations to bring the best beef they could produce out of their farms.

To ensure the best quality, Vaughn said his cattle must go through verifications conducted by a third party before it could be exported to European or Chinese market.

These verifications require cattle farmers like Vaughn to keep accurate age record, maintain a reliable source of its cattles, and avoid using growth hormones.

Even as growth hormone is considered safe to treat the cattle in the United States, it is the primary concern for European and Chinese beef consumers.

"So we have a third party verification company," said Vaughn, "and they are approved by the United States Department of Agriculture to verify."

"They come on site to each of our participating farms once a year and ordered our records. Look at all of our medicine cabinets and check everything to be sure that our claim of non-hormone treated can be verified by them as a third party," said Vaughn.

Additionally, even if the beef was exported to thousands of miles away, Vaughn said it is completely traceable.

"The way that tracing is done, is that we put a small electronic device in the cattle's ear," said Vaughn, adding that the electronics would stay in the cattle through harvest.

"So if our beef were to arrive at a destination in a foreign country and be tested and found that I had made a false claim, they could trace that straight back to me," he said.


Speaking of the ongoing trade talks between China and the United States, Vaughn would like "the negotiators on the American side" to "listen to the industry experts."

"We just need to be allowed to show the world how to do it without a bunch of unrelated issues getting in our way," said Vaughn.

"Let us compete on our merits," said Vaughn, "let the cattle industry that can produce the best, safest beef in the world compete on the world stage."

If the United States and China could reach a trade deal that gives more market access for cattle farmers like him, Vaughn believes he could further expand their farms' capacity.

"I have two sons that you've met, and we're trying to take our farm to at least five hundred head," said Vaughn, "If we had better market access, which would be a price driver, would drive the price up, it would be easier for us to expand."

For the even bigger picture, Vaughn sees a good trade deal as a great opportunity for all his fellow cattle farmers, since "there is a serious amount of capacity available for expansion in the United States."

(Xinhua reporters in New York Zhou Sa'ang, Wang Ying contributed to the story.)