Alberta is famous for its beef, but a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) — commonly known as mad cow disease — found last month in the province has led to import bans from China, South Korea and the Philippines.
The decision has some in the industry concerned.
“Anytime we lose markets for beef in Alberta, or Canada as a whole, it definitely causes some concern,” said Kevin Serfas.
Serfas owns a feed lot, Serfas Farms Ltd., outside of Turin, Alta., located northeast of Lethbridge.
“Anytime you hear BSE, no matter what type it is, it catches everyone’s interest,” Serfas added.
China is the largest of the three beef markets and represents about five per cent of Canada’s $400-billion exports.
Its ban on Brazilian beef last year for a similar case lasted three months.
“Any disruption isn’t good. There is an amount of meat that’s moving to these places with the bans and it will create chaos in the short term. But I’m confident this will get worked through, hopefully in short time,” said Serfas.
There’s about two to three cases like this around the world each year, but this is Canada’s first in six years, according to Canadian Cattlemen’s Association executive vice president Dennis Laycraft.
“In a case like this, the animal was found on a farm. The remains were contained and incinerated, so there’s no danger to food or feed. It’s kind of an open-and-shut case,” said Laycraft.
While Laycraft think there’s no reason for these trade restrictions, he says some countries are extra cautious and want additional information before opening imports.
In a statement, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) confirms the case of atypical BSE was found in December 2021, and the animal was euthanized on the farm and did not enter the food or animal feed chain.
“Canada has proactively engaged with trading partners to provide information about this detection and maintain confidence in Canada’s safeguards against BSE,” the statement reads.
“A few trading partners (South Korea, Philippines and China) have asked Canada for additional information about the atypical BSE case and have either temporarily suspended imports from Canada or requested that Canada not certify exports for their market pending review of that information. A response with information on Canada’s BSE safeguards was provided to trading partners.”