Good news for Irish beef farmers as they get back into the US market

Grass-fed advantage helps play quality card


The re-opening of beef exports to the United States represents good news for a farming sector undergoing difficult financial times. A 15-year ban was lifted followed intensive lobbying by Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney and an inspection of meat plants by US officials last year. Following the emergence of BSE, known as “mad cow disease” in the 1990s, beef exports from all EU countries had been banned.

The volatility of prices affecting the agricultural sector has been a continuing cause for concern. Shortages and rising demand are generally followed by increased production and falling prices, with devastating consequences. That cycle is now evident in the US where beef herds are at a sixty-year low and prices are at an historic high. The re-opening of this market to Irish beef could be of significant benefit in the short term, as US beef herd is slowly rebuilt – a process that will depend on feed prices and drought conditions in Texas.

In the longer term, the prospect of capturing a slice of the most expensive, grass-fed US beef market is good. Irish meat processors believe the UScould become a high-value/low volume niche market for “green beef” steak cuts. That should help prices, while the head start Ireland has gained over its EU competitors is also important – with quality being the trump card.