It’s been twenty years since UK beef was served on US plates–but that’s now changing, and ministers value the US market at £66m over the next five years. Free trade talks follow the climate post-Brexit, but they have stirred up quite a furore, with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and fitness trainer Joe Wicks warning that trade deals shouldn’t see a fall in UK food standards.
Liz Truss, International Trade Secretary has said that the UK will not allow the disputed chlorine-washed chicken from the US to be sent to supermarkets, citing the law as a motivating factor, into which a ban is already cemented. She reassured skeptics that the UK will continue to uphold high standards with regards to animal welfare and the environment and that food standards will not fall by the wayside as new trade deals are struck up. Wicks and Oliver, amongst others, were especially concerned about the chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-injected beef imports from the US.
But it was the US who banned UK beef imports initially, after cattle herds became infected by Mad Cow Disease, known by its medical term BSE. Exports began again yesterday, and the first shipments will leave from Northern Ireland’s Foyle Food Group. Environment Secretary George Eustice said that “this is great news for our food and farming industry, helping the sector go from strength to strength.” The imports come after reviews by the US Food Safety Inspection Service in 2019 of UK products, specifically for beef, pork and lamb, although pork exports go on undeterred, whilst lamb exports haven’t yet begun.
The Agriculture and Horticulture development board has said that the restart of beef exportation is an “historic moment.” A director at the board, Dr Phil Hadley, has commented that “the US represents an important potential market for our red meat exports and today’s first shipment is the result of the hard work and persistence of the industry and government to bring about this crucial next step.” He continued: “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.”