Earlier this year, China reopened its borders to U.S. beef and soon Montana ranchers will help to feed some of the country’s 1.3 billion people.
According to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association’s CEO Kendal Frazier, the move is a tremendous opportunity for U.S. cattlemen.
“When they get a taste of U.S. beef, they love it and they want more of it," Frazier said. "There’s a bigger middle class in China than the entire U.S. population."
Montana isn’t wasting any time. This week Montana Senator Steve Daines secured an agreement between JD.com, one of China’s largest retailers, and the Montana Stockgrowers Association with the intent to purchase a minimum of $200 million in Montana-sourced beef over the next several years.
"This is a fantastic step," Montana Stockgrowers Association President Bryan Mussard from Dillon said. "Montana Stockgrowers has always been an avid marketing team to try to get Montana beef out to the world."
Mussard added that Montana is home to the highest quality beef in the country.
For Montana ranchers, export markets like China also make a difference on sale day.
“No question. We export 13 percent of our domestic production overseas now," Frazier said. "It’s one of the factors that’s driving the better cattle prices we’ve seen this fall."
The Chinese do have some special requirements on Montana cattle to be exported.
“The cattle have to be NHTC, which is non-hormone treated and they have to be sourced from the ranch," Mussard said.
Beef is the largest growing meat sector in China and with agreements like this, Montana ranchers will soon feed their growing appetite for U.S. beef.
The agreement also says JD.com will seek to invest up to another $100 million to build a processing plant in Montana to support Montana beef production, with construction beginning as early as 2018.