Interested in the EU market?
Prices for cattle eligible for the European Union (EU) market have consistently been above that for other markets but there is more work involved in meeting their stringent requirements.
Australia ships beef to the EU under two major quotas:
- High Quality Beef (HQB) ‘Hilton’ country specific quota—7,150 tonnes of high quality beef with 20% in-quota tariff.
- HQB global grain-fed quota—shared access with the US, Canada, Uruguay, New Zealand and Argentina to 48,200 tonnes of grain-fed beef with 0% in-quota tariff.
High value cuts, constituting around 15% of the carcase, are sent, which requires around 140,000 to 200,000 head of eligible cattle.
To supply the EU market properties must have European Union Cattle Accreditation Scheme (EUCAS) accreditation. EUCAS accreditation is voluntary and is administered by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. To become accredited you have to submit an Application for EUCAS accreditation of farm form. The following summary of the main requirements for EUCAS accreditation is a guideline only—please visit the EUCAS website or contact the EUCAS helpline on 1800 305 544 for more specific, detailed information on EU rules, accreditation, etc.
EUCAS accreditation requirements summary
The key requirements for EUCAS accreditation are that you:
- Have only eligible cattle on your property at all times; that is cattle that have lifetime traceability (with the exception of breeding bulls) and have never been treated with HGPs.
- Only buy, sell or receive (in the case of agistment) cattle from other EUCAS accredited properties or saleyards (with the exception of approved non-EU breeding females and bulls). A list of accredited producers, feedlots, saleyards and abattoirs is available on the EUCAS website.
- Identify all your cattle with NLIS devices. Calves born on accredited properties must have NLIS devices by the time they are weaned.
- Use European Union Vendor Declaration (EUVD) forms.
- Keep your NLIS database account up to date and conduct annual PIC reconciliations.
- Participate in random EUCAS audits.
Some important questions to ask when considering EUCAS accreditation are:
- Can I produce enough cattle to meet EU specifications to make it worthwhile?
- Am I prepared to keep the records consistently up to date?
- Am I prepared to deal in only EU-eligible stock?
Potential advantages of EUCAS accreditation
For many producers the advantages compensate for additional work required for EUCAS accreditation:
- A substantial price premium.
- Management advantages with good records such as measuring genetics and performance.
- Can opt out of EUCAS at any time if you find it is unsuitable.
- Can sell to other markets if there is better money, you are not dedicated to go to the EU.
Potential disadvantages of EUCAS accreditation
Potential disadvantages include:
- Not being able to deal in any other ineligible stock on a EUCAS-accredited property.
- Not being able to use or store HGPs on a EUCAS-accredited property.
- Agistment of your EUCAS-accredited stock is limited to EUCAS-accredited properties (unless in emergency circumstances for a maximum of 6 months—see Agistment guidelines for EUCAS cattle for details), and only EUCAS-accredited stock can be brought in for agistment on your EUCAS-accredited property.
- Sourcing EUCAS stock to purchase (a breeder-fattener has an advantage in not needing to source EUCAS stock).
Being EUCAS accredited to produce animals eligible for the EU market does not automatically guarantee that they will be graded as suitable for that market. Carcases must meet certain specifications to be eligible. General EU specifications are:
- heifers or steers
- 240–339kg carcase weights
- 0–4 teeth
- 7–23mm P8 fat
- Light meat colour
- Minimum C muscle
- Grass or grain-fed
Check with your processors or agents for exact, current specifications.
More information on EUCAS accreditation, NLIS and the EU market is available from:
- the European Union Cattle Accreditation Scheme (EUCAS) website, phone 1800 305 544 or email the EUCAS coordinator
- the European Union high-quality beef and grain-fed beef quotas website, phone 02 6272 4068 or email Quota Admin
- Meat & Livestock Australia’s National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) web pages or phone 1800 023 100
- the Monthly trade summary of Australian beef to the EU and the EU beef market snapshot on the Meat & Livestock Australia website