Fourth UK beef processing site gains access to US market

The UK-US beef deal is estimated to be worth £66 million over the next five years
The UK-US beef deal is estimated to be worth £66 million over the next five years

A fourth processing site in the UK has won approval to export its beef to the US – marking a major leap forward for the business and for the British red meat sector.

Foyle Food Group in Gloucester is now listed on the official ‘USDA Approved’ list, which means commercial exports of beef can commence with immediate effect.

The UK was granted access to ship beef to the all-important US market late last year, with processors WD Meats, Keepak and a second Foyle site gaining approval.

Since access was granted, the UK has exported over £3 million of beef to the country, adding value across the supply chain.

It follows the US’s longstanding ban on UK and EU beef – introduced in the wake of the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) outbreak in 1996.

Now the US market is currently seeing price rises for beef and an increased demand for premium products, driven by changing purchasing behaviour across all income groups.

The four beef processing sites will also compliment the growing pork exports to the US – which has seen shipments increase in value by 76% in the first quarter of 2021 to £3.8m compared to the same period last year.

Foyle Food Group received support from AHDB, Defra, the Food Standards Agency and the UK Export Certification Partnership.

AHDB Market Development Director, Dr Phil Hadley said: “Like their UK counterparts, US consumers are seeking quality meat to recreate the restaurant experience at home, resulting in a switch to premium products.

“I consider our products to fill this desire in the US, as they are high value with added credentials around our native breeds and farming methods.”

Recent data has shown the volume of premium beef products sold in retail has increased by 55% by dollar value, some 52% compared to ‘standard’ products that increased by 11% in volume.

Sales of fillet steak have also increased 34 percent over the same period, according to the figures.

John Wilkes, AHDB’s representative in Washington DC said: “US consumers no longer view higher retail prices negatively for a premium meat for home consumption as opposed to the much higher costs of a premium experience in a restaurant.

“Consumers are prepared to increase spend to have a meal experience which in turn has led to a decrease in demand for 'cheap meat'.

"This augers well for UK beef and pork products, often sold at a premium with added claims such as high welfare and high production standards.”

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

Last year, beef shipments from Northern Ireland were the first such product to leave the UK in 24 years.