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Irish lamb will appear on the menu for the first time in the US

Date: 27/04/2022

  • Announcement of sheepmeat exports coincides with the launch of Bord Bia’s three-year EU campaign promoting beef and lamb in the US  
  • Total Irish food and drink exports to the US valued at €1.3 billion in 2021, making the US Ireland’s second largest export market after the UK 

Irish lamb will appear on the menu for the first time in the US, announced as part of the Bord Bia government-led trade mission. 

This week Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue T.D. announced that Ireland had secured full access to export sheepmeat to the US. Welcoming the news, Bord Bia CEO Tara McCarthy said the US is now Ireland’s second largest export market for food and drink (after the UK) and that there has never been a more opportune time to export, with 42%1 of Irish food and drink manufacturers prioritising North America (the US specifically) in their future market plans, ahead of Asian markets including China 

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In 2021, total Irish food and drink exports to the US were valued at €1.3 billion, up 22% on 2020. In 2022 overall sheepmeat consumption in the US is forecast to stand at 207,000 tonnes, providing perfect export opportunities for Irish companies.  

Speaking ahead of today’s reception at the Irish embassy in Washington to mark Bord Bia’s upcoming three year co-funded EU campaign, Tara McCarthy said a key part of promoting Irish lamb stateside will be positioning it as a premium product with high health and nutritional benefits while also highlighting Ireland’s commitment to food safety.  

“Our research shows us that lamb consumption is growing in the US and that consumers, particularly younger consumers, are open to eating more lamb and are willing to pay more for ‘quality’ lamb that is reared ethically and comes from a natural environment,” she said. “With this in mind, Bord Bia’s focus will be on raising the profile of Irish sheepmeat through awareness of it as a premium product sourced from family run farms, and fully traceable from farm to fork. Creating a brand that symbolises Ireland’s heritage, quality and trust or ‘green credentials’ is key.” 

In June, Bord Bia launches the three-year intensive co-funded EU campaign, Working with Nature – European Beef and Lamb, which sees Bord Bia investing €1 million in marketing and promotional seminars, events and promotional activities from 2022 to 2025. 

US wholesaler Marx Foods, who already import Irish beef, is looking forward to being amongst the first to receive Irish lamb in the US.  

Justin Marx, Director at Marx Foods, said: At Marx Foods we are delighted with the relationship we have developed with our Irish beef supplier, ABP. Our food service and retail customers alike have been impressed with the sustainability positioning of beef from Ireland through the Origin Green programme and of course, Irish beef’s exceedingly high quality. We now look forward to adding Irish lamb to our portfolio and see great potential in the US for this premium Irish product over the next decade and beyond.” 

Bord Bia’s New York office is now targeting lamb buyers in the US for inward visits to Ireland to see first-hand Irish farming and processing systems. Bord Bia also plans to showcase lamb at trade shows in the US and introduce Irish exporters to potential customers and routes to market.  

Henry Horkan, Bord Bia Director for North America, commented: “Bord Bia has been engaging with key importers and customers over the last year ahead of the launch of lamb in the US. What we have planned now is an intensive programme of engagement with key buyers and trade to secure a smooth and swift process for Irish companies wishing to export to the market. This access decision will accelerate Bord Bia’s activities with lamb buyers and retailers, optimise the value returned to Irish producers and bring its advertising message closer to the US trade audience.” 

The EU-co funded campaign, Working with Nature - European Beef and Lamb, provides a key opportunity to build on the strong reputation Irish dairy, beef and alcohol has gained in the US and to demonstrate how the Irish food industry can work with customers in responding to consumer demands for quality and sustainably produced food. 

The campaign will have a specific product focus and tailored promotional activities targeting importers, retailers, foodservice providers, chefs and media outlets. The Business to Business (B-2-B) campaign will also concentrate on digital media, PR, trade fairs, seminars and inward visits to Ireland, building awareness and understanding of food safety, quality assurance and sustainability of European grass-fed beef and lamb. 

Over the course of the three-year campaign, Bord Bia will target more than 350 key trade and decision makers and over 6,000 buyers will be accessible to our meat exporters at international trade shows. Bord Bia will also welcome 15 overseas trade representatives to visit Irish farms and processors. 

Last December, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine confirmed the lifting by the USDA of a ban on EU sheepmeat, paving the way for full market access for Irish sheepmeat exports to the US market. Up until that time, sheepmeat exports from the EU to the US had been banned due to the presence of scrapie in certain EU member states.