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Canada's Ranchers Skeptical of U.S. Beef Market

Rancher Cam Ostercamp says he lost $140,000 in 2003 with the ban on Canadian beef.
Greg Allen, NPR
Rancher Cam Ostercamp says he lost $140,000 in 2003 with the ban on Canadian beef.
Alberta cattle, with part of the Rocky Mountain range in the distance.
/ Greg Allen, NPR
/
Greg Allen, NPR
Alberta cattle, with part of the Rocky Mountain range in the distance.

Discovery of mad cow disease in Canada in 2003 led the United States to close the border to Canadian cattle -- a move that has cost Canadian beef producers more than $5 billion.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture now says it plans to reopen the border in March. But as NPR's Greg Allen reports, in Canada's cattle country, mad cow disease has sown distrust in an industry where borders once didn't matter.

Before May of 2003, when the first case of mad cow disease was discovered in Canada, six out of every ten head of cattle produced in Canada ended up on U.S. dinner plates. But it's been more than 20 months since Canadian cattle were allowed into the United States.

That's a stark contrast to domestic farmers, who saw strong consumer demand and high beef prices combine to make 2004 one of the most profitable years ever for U.S. cattlemen.

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