First shipments of UK beef to US since 1997 resume

UK beef exports to the US have resumed after being banned for more than 20 years
UK beef exports to the US have resumed after being banned for more than 20 years

The first shipments of British beef to the US in more than 20 years have been sent off today, a step which has been called a 'historic moment' for farmers.

Shipments were sent on Wednesday (30 September) after three UK beef processing sites were given the go-ahead earlier this month to export.

The lucrative deal is estimated to be worth £66 million over the next five years, government ministers say.

The US placed a ban on British beef in 1996 after the outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as 'mad cow disease', in the UK.

Fast forward to 2020, beef shipments from Northern Ireland's Foyle Food Group have been the first such product to leave the UK in 24 years.

Dr Phil Hadley, AHDB Market Development Director, said the United States represented an 'important potential market' for UK red meat exports.

"Today's first shipment is the result of the hard work and persistence of industry and government to bring about this crucial next step," he added.

"This important milestone will bring a fantastic boost to the sector and we look forward to seeing more of our red meat served up on dinner tables across the US in the months and years to come."

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said the deal could be 'the tip of the iceberg' as the UK looks to cement post-Brexit trade deals.

"The free trade deal we are negotiating with the US will create a host of export opportunities for British agriculture," she said.

"We are seeking an ambitious and high standards agreement that benefits farmers and delivers for consumers."

However, those free trade negotiations remain controversial, with farming groups warning the government not to lower British food standards in order to gain deals.

NFU president Minette Batters recently urged MPs to strengthen the Agriculture Bill to provide better scrutiny of future trade deals.

The legislation will return to the House of Commons in October, where parliamentarians will decide whether key amendments looking to safeguard UK standards will pass into law.