KANSAS CITY, KAN. — For the first in decades, you can enjoy beef imported from Ireland for St. Patrick's Day. Trade and agricultural experts from Kansas State University say this "green beef" could open the door for trade agreements with other countries in the European Union.
In January, the U.S. announced it was lifting a ban on beef imports from Ireland after more than 15 years.
"This is significant for the Republic of Ireland because it is the first of the European Union nation state members to regain market access in the beef sector in the United States following the bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, outbreak in the late 1990s," said Justin Kastner, associate professor of food safety and security at Kansas State University.
The Irish beef is being termed "green beef" because the cattle are grass-fed and not treated with hormones. Sean Fox, professor of agricultural economics, says because this is a niche market it will have little overall effect on the beef market in the U.S.
"The projected volume of imports from Ireland is on the order of 20,000 metric tons per year, which is approximately 2 percent of current U.S. beef imports," Fox said. "It will compete in a relatively small, premium price niche market in the U.S.
The risk of mad cow disease in Ireland is considered extremely low.
"Significant regulatory progress has been done to eliminate BSE," Kastner said. "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration instituted a ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban, which basically prohibited certain categories of animal protein from being fed back to ruminants. The World Organization for Animal Health based in Paris has developed new risk categories to classify countries according to their BSE risk status."
Fox says Ireland is the EU's largest beef exporter and ranks among the world's top exporting countries. In time, he says other European countries will regain access to the U.S. market.