Hopes for a speedy resumption of Canadian beef exports to the US may have been dashed after the two countries disagreed on the way the age of cattle would be assessed.

The US said last month it would resume imports of boneless Canadian beef from cattle under 30 months old. One way of judging how old cattle are is to examine their teeth, but officials on either side of the border have not been able to agree on when the check should be carried out, according to Claude Boissonneault, chief of red meat programmes with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

“We’re at the level of technical discussion, let’s say the last stretch of it, and we’re expecting some resolution in a few days,” Boissonneault told Reuters.  

While US officials requested that farmers have their cattle checked before shipping them to Canadian slaughterhouses, Canadian officials have argued that the dental check can be difficult and stressful for the animal if done while it is conscious, and that the check should be done at the time of slaughter.

Boissonneault said Canadian meatpacking plants are sophisticated enough to keep separate the animals that pass the dental check from those that do not.

The US banned imports of Canadian beef in May following the discovery of a single case of mad cow disease in Alberta.