Age Verification of Cattle for Export to Japan

Darrell Busby, Beef Field Specialist, SW Area

Problem Statement:

The import requirement for American beef to enter Japan is product from cattle twenty months of age or less. There are two ways to determine if carcasses meet that requirement, 1) physiological determination of carcass maturity, and 2) documented chronological age of the live animal.  Historically, only 10% of carcasses presented to USDA graders have qualified for the A-40 specification. The only way to provide the documented chronological age of cattle is for beef producers to enroll in either a process verified program (PVP) or a quality systems assessment (QSA).  Tyson contacted me to write a QSA under their packer umbrella for the Tri-County Steer Carcass Futurity (TCSCF) program. 

Programmatic Response: 

The QSA documentation was prepared and shared with over 20 feedlots in Iowa.  Two feedlots outside of the TCSCF program revised the TCSCF template and were approved by Tyson and USDA Agricultural Marketing Service to supply cattle to Tyson for export to Japan.

To participate in the Japan Export Verification (JEV) program, everyone involved in record keeping of the age verified calves, including cow-calf producers, feedlots and TCSCF and all employees, must receive QSA training.  To date 481 people from 15 states and 1 Canadian province have received the QSA training.  The Tyson – TCSCF QSA has been audited three times by USDA Agricultural Marketing Service with only one minor correction requiring attention.  


From March 19, 2007 to December 17, 2008, the TCSCF program marketed 15,719 head of steers and heifers.  11,775 head or 75% of the total head marketed were eligible for export to Japan.  The average premium paid was $24.66/head or an additional gross income of $290,335 received by cow-calf producers who documented the age of their calves.  The TCSCF cooperative retains $1.50/head for additional staff time required to receive and maintain proper documentation so the additional net income to the producer is $23.16/head or a total of $272,672.


140 – Iowa Beef Center

Page last updated: February 19, 2009
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