Irish beef exports to US improve as processors win contracts

Department says 1,300 tonnes worth €8.5m has been shipped since lifting of embargo

Beef exports to the US have picked up significantly in recent weeks, according to the Department of Agriculture.

As of the first week of November, approximately 1,300 tonnes worth €8.5 million have been shipped since the lifting of the US beef embargo earlier this year.While short of official predictions, this is an acceleration in trade since June, when only 31 tonnes of beef had been exported.

“This is an exceptionally strong start to this trade, considering that the first exports only went in March of this year and some of the plants were only approved for export as recently as September,” a department spokesman said.

‘Significant potential’

“The strong acceleration in exports from where they were in June indicates the significant potential that this market offers,” he added.


Ireland remains the only EU state granted access to the US market since the BSE-inspired embargo of the 1990s.

Six Irish processing plants have been granted US export licences: Foyle Meats Donegal, Slaney Foods International, Dawn Charleville, ABP Clones, Kepak Kilbeggan and Kepak Longford.

High-value cuts

The current deal between Dublin and


is only for high-value steak cuts, such as fillet, rib-eye and sirloin. Premium beef imports, however, represent only a small part of the overall US beef market, as most upmarket traders source prime cuts locally, under the assumption that US beef is superior to foreign brands.

While a niche for grass-fed, hormone-free beef is developing, Irish exports will likely remain low until the licence is widened to include mince.

E coli hygiene protocols, which differ in the US, still have to be bridged for this.

“There is an ongoing process with the US authorities to secure access for manufacturing beef. This process is on track, but involves complex technical negotiations,” the spokesman said.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times