When it is EU slaughter day in Omaha, Dan Morgan hits the road. He sets the cruise control to 65 miles an hour and follows the straight lines of Nebraska’s highways, two hours East and then two hours South. At 5.30 am the next day he will be at the packing plant to inspect the meat before its long journey overseas. A week or so later, places like Berlin’s Grill Royal will serve Rib Eye steaks from the Morgan Ranch to their guests.
Morgan is one of few American ranchers who can export to the EU. His prime quality Wagyu cattle is raised hormone-free. Treating beef with artificial growth hormones is a common practice in the U.S., but banned in the EU. Even without hormones, meat from the Morgan Ranch has to pass many inspection and customs hurdles before arriving in Berlin.
The EU and the U.S. started negotiations over a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in May 2013. In Capital magazine, we showed how difficult trade across the Atlantic can still be today. In two parallel articles (read them both in German on capital.de), Christian Salewski and I followed a steak from Nebraska to Berlin and a Volkswagen from Wolfsburg to New York.
We found out that both sides are still more than just an ocean apart when it comes to food safety standards or technical specifications. Trade, after all, is not just about numbers and statistics – it is about habits, emotions and cultural traditions.
Morgan has to do a lot to make sure his beef meets European standards. He has to open his ranch and the feeding lot in nearby Burwell to regular inspections. He has to make sure the packing plant in Omaha is certified to process meat for export to the EU. His animals cannot be slaughtered on the same day as cattle from other farms. Upon arrival in Germany, veterinarians verify that the Morgan delivery is in accordance with EU regulations and that it stays within the import quota for non-hormone treated U.S. beef.
For Morgan, it is still a good business. The guests at Grill Royal pay upward of 85 Euros for a steak from his ranch which my colleague Christian and Capital editor-in-chief Horst von Buttlar got to sample at the restaurant. Meanwhile in Nebraska, I had the pleasure to get my Rib Eye fresh from Dan Morgan’s grill, with a side of potato salad prepared by his mother Doris.