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Talk of the Day -- U.S. beef row takes toll on steakhouses

Talk of the Day -- U.S. beef row takes toll on steakhouses

Heated controversy over whether to allow sales of U.S. beef containing residue of the leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine has dealt a severe blow to local steakhouses and restaurants serving Western cuisine, local newspapers reported Monday. Taiwan currently bans the use of ractopamine as a feed additive and only allows imports of meat that contain zero ractopamine residue. Amid speculation that the government might be preparing to yield to U.S. pressure to scrap the ban, grassroots health authorities have stepped up checks on the beef used by local restaurant chains in an effort to signify that there has been no change in the government's stance of prioritizing public health over any other consideration. A recent discovery of U.S. beef being sold on some local supermarket shelves containing residue of the banned drug has fueled consumer distrust and led to a 50 percent drop in business at local casual dining steakhouse chains, according to media reports. High-end steakhouses at five-star tourist hotels have all switched to using Australian beef, but have still seen a 20 to 30 percent decline in sales, the reports said, adding that the ongoing "U.S. beef storm" could cost local steakhouse operators or restaurant owners an estimated NT$100 million (US$3.39 million) in lost business. The following are excerpts from local media coverage of the ractopamine controversy: Economic Daily News: Grassroots food safety officials have inspected major popular casual-dining and fantasy steakhouse chains, including My Home Steak, Noble Family Steak House, Burger King and Taiwan Yoshinoya in recent weeks. Steakhouse operators said as U.S. beef is more expensive than that from other countries, it accounts for a mere 25 percent market share in Taiwan. Most the remaining 75 percent of imported beef sold at local stores come from Australia and New Zealand, and a small portion comes from Canada and Uruguay. But the United States has traditionally dominated the local premium beef market, market sources said. High-end restaurants tend to serve premium U.S. beef while food stalls at night markets and cutprice steakhouse chains usually use Australian or New Zealand beef. C'est Bon Steak, one of most famous local fine-dining restaurants, said that it has decided to suspend serving U.S. beef from Monday and will use Australian and New Zealand beef. The company said the government's recent crackdown on U.S. beef containing ractopamine has led to a 30 to 40 percent increases in Australian beef prices. Without imports of U.S. beef to balance domestic supply, a C'est Bon spokesman predicted that beef prices could rise further. (March 5, 2012). China Times: Despite the ractopamine controversy, the Taipei City Government said over the weekend that the annual Taipei International Beef Noodle Festival will not be affected by the row. "The festival has helped promote Taipei's international profile and image. So we will continue to hold the event this year," said Liu Chia-chun, director of the city government's Office of Commerce. "There are many beef import sources. All participants used Australian beef in the 2011 festival. Therefore, the U.S. beef row will not have any impact on our event," Liu added. (March 5, 2012). (By Sofia Wu)


Updated : 2021-05-18 05:25 GMT+08:00