Beef small intestines, a valuable export commodity, return to U.S. beef produ…

Beef small intestines, a valuable export commodity, return to U.S. beef production today after being disallowed since January 2004 when they were listed as a risk material following the first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) found in the United States.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF), a key player in getting small intestines back on the U.S. production and export lists, sees this move as a boost to the U.S. beef industry’s bottom line.

“The U.S. beef industry can now make use of a 10-pound yield per head that was previously discarded,” USMEF Assistant Director, Export Services Kevin Smith said. “The rule change gives U.S. packers another valuable option in export markets.”

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Sept. 7 that the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) starting today will allow production of beef small intestine that has been separated from the distal ileum, a portion of the small intestine.

This change is a result of industry comments requested by FSIS in January 2004. USMEF took the lead in gathering information, sharing details with the industry and providing comments to FSIS.

Smith wrote a technical paper on the beef distal ileum that was sent to FSIS, packers and casing manufacturers. Several of Smith’s conclusions have been included in the FSIS rule changes.

USDA export statistics show in 2003 the United States exported 15,475 metric tons (mt) of beef intestine with 46 percent to Japan at $1.02 per pound and 36 percent to Korea. U.S. exports of beef intestine to Japan in 2003 alone were estimated at more than $16 million.

“With the expectation markets such as Japan and Korea will reopen soon to U.S. beef, this new ruling is especially important since those were the top two markets for U.S. beef intestine and hold significant value for the U.S. beef industry,” Smith said.

With the return of the beef small intestine to the U.S. export list, more value exists in open U.S. beef markets such as Mexico, the fourth-largest market for U.S. beef intestine in 2003.

By removing 80 inches of the approximately 100-foot small intestine, Smith concluded the intestine can be safely used for sausage casings and other human food while ensuring the entire ileum, which is 18 to 24 inches in length, including the distal portion is safely removed.

The U.S. Meat Export Federation is the trade association responsible for developing international markets for the U.S. red meat industry and is funded by USDA, exporting companies, and the beef, pork, corn, sorghum and soybean checkoff programs.