As the debate continues on whether to allow imports of US beef containing residue of the banned leanness-enhancing drug ractopamine, a likely policy change has raised concerns among hotel operators that “bad beef could drive out the good” in the market.
Hotel operators say that if the ban on beef with ractopamine residue were lifted, the market would be divided, and their greatest concern was that low-priced US beef containing the feed additive would be mixed with beef without the additive as it enters the market.
In light of those concerns, operators have started labeling imported beef with its country-of-origin.
The majority of local hotel operators now have labels stating the country-of-origin of their beef products by indicating the sources on their restaurant menus or within the description of the dishes.
Several hotels in Taiwan, including Villa 32, where truffle steaks are served, have requested beef imported from the US undergo qualified examination before departing the US, followed by a second examination in Taiwan.
Operators, including Howard Plaza Hotel Hsinchu and Grand Victoria Hotel, have also requested importers provide reports on beef products, which would likely be posted at the restaurant entrances to boost consumer confidence.
However, some operators say that beef imported from the US has mostly been replaced by beef from Australia and New Zealand. The Maison de Chine in Greater Taichung and the Chinatrust Hotel in Jhongli (中壢), Taoyuan County, have done this.
In the two Howard Plaza hotels in Taipei and Hsinchu, only 20 percent of their beef products come from the US owing to consumer sentiment, with 70 percent of of beef imported from Australia and New Zealand because of stable sources and pricing. They said that since the implementation of a zero-tolerance policy on the banned drug ractopamine last year, importers had decreased the amount of imported US beef, fearing losses if ractopamine residues were detected.
Domestic beef, which comes from yellow cattle bred in Kinmen, Taitung and Pingtung, only accounts for 10 percent of beef served by hotel operators because of low quantity, high prices and unstable sources, an analysis by the Chateau de Chine, Sinjhuang, showed.
The Imperial Hotel Taipei and Ambassador Hotel said their customers still preferred US beef.
Translated by Stacy Hsu, Staff Writer