Unlocking Premium Markets: Enrolling in the NHTC Program

What is NHTC – Non Hormone Treated Cattle and Why are they part of the Marketing of feeder cattle and Live Cattle?

In the world of beef production and international trade, the term 'NHTC' holds a significant place of importance. Non-Hormone Treated Cattle, abbreviated as NHTC, plays a pivotal role in the marketing of feeder cattle and live cattle, especially in the context of the European Union (EU). The EU's stringent regulations against the use of hormones in beef production have paved the way for NHTC to become a crucial certification for cattle producers looking to access premium European markets. In this article, we delve into the world of NHTC, exploring its origins, the reasons behind its prominence, and the opportunities it presents to those in the cattle industry seeking to tap into a lucrative market while upholding quality and transparency standards.

Here's a review of EU trade restrictions on beef, focusing on Non-Hormone Treated Cattle (NHTC):

1. Background:

In the 1980s, the EU banned the use of growth-promoting hormones in cattle farming. As an extension of this domestic policy, the EU also prohibited the import of beef from cattle that had been treated with these hormones.

2. Reasons for the Ban:

Health Concerns: The EU based its decision on the precautionary principle, which is the idea of taking preventive action in the face of possible harm. However, it's worth noting that international organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), have stated that beef from hormone-treated cattle is safe to eat when the hormones are used as directed. (The NCBA and US trade negotiators have been fighting this issue for many years arguing that a “science based” approach to restrictions should be the standard for trade, not a political conspiracy theory.)

3. Non-Hormone Treated Cattle (NHTC) Program:

To address the EU ban and still be able to export beef to the EU, the United States and Canada established the NHTC program. This program certifies that cattle have not been treated with hormones. It helps exporters from these countries to gain access to the EU market.

4. Trade Disputes:

The EU's ban led to a long-standing trade dispute with the U.S. and Canada. Both countries challenged the EU's restrictions at the World Trade Organization (WTO), arguing that the ban was not based on scientific evidence. In 1998, the WTO ruled in favor of the U.S. and Canada. However, the EU maintained its restrictions, leading to the authorization of trade sanctions against the EU by the WTO. To resolve the issue, the EU and the U.S. reached a memorandum of understanding in 2009, where the EU would allow a specific quota of high-quality beef imports from non-hormone treated cattle.

5. Current Status:

While the EU continues to allow beef imports from non-hormone treated cattle under the agreed quota, the hormone ban remains in place. The issue is emblematic of broader trade tensions and differences in regulatory philosophies between the EU and other nations.

Cattle Producers' Pathway to Premium European Markets: NHTC Certification and Beyond

If you're a cattle producer aiming to access premium European markets, it's time to consider the Non-Hormone Treated Cattle (NHTC) program. Partnering with IMI Global, a leader in third-party verifications, can be your gateway to a lucrative beef market in the European Union. But what does it entail, and is it worth the extra effort and cost?

1. Understanding NHTC and Third-party Verification:

The NHTC program ensures that cattle are raised without the use of certain growth-promoting hormones. IMI Global, with its reputation for trust and transparency, helps producers like you achieve this certification. Their third-party verification ensures every segment of the cattle's life, from birth to market, adheres to the stringent NHTC standards.

2. Requirements:

For a successful enrollment and verification, each segment handling the cattle – be it the cow-calf producer, stocker operator, or feed yard – must be audited and verified by IMI Global. This guarantees that every step of the way, your cattle remain hormone-free, ensuring credibility in the eyes of the discerning European consumer. Buffalo Feeders is an approved feed yard for NHTC cattle through iIMI Global.

3. Potential Benefits vs. Costs:

Now, you might wonder: Is it worth it? The short answer is yes. By becoming NHTC certified:

Premium Pricing: Access to the European market can fetch higher prices for your beef, offsetting any additional costs associated with the program.

Diversification: It opens up new markets, providing a hedge against fluctuations in domestic demand.

Consumer Trust: Globally, there's a rising demand for naturally-raised, hormone-free beef. NHTC certification positions your brand as trustworthy and committed to quality.

However, there are added costs. The verification process, added documentation, and potential changes to herd management practices can raise your production costs. Also, when feed stuff is high, your cost of gain will be much higher than traditional fed cattle. So, the last couple of years when corn prices have been very high, and hay prices were very high in relation to the last ten years, the potential margin between the premiums for the NHTC Program certification and the cost of producing the animal (more days, more feed, less efficient) have narrowed significantly.

In a world where consumers are becoming more discerning about their food choices, NHTC certification through IMI Global provides a new market avenue, granting access to markets that value quality, transparency, and sustainability.

~Tom Fanning

Manager, Buffalo Feeders

October 12, 2023
© 2023 Buffalo Feeders LLC || P.O. Box 409, Buffalo, OK 73834