Opinion

US market offers an outlet for UK carcass trimmings

The export target for Irish beef in the US should be carcass trimmings which would be used to manufacture burgers.

Current assumptions are that beef promoted to potential buyers as grass-fed would be the primary target.

However, it is becoming clear that the US requires cattle to be produced under much tougher standards than Ireland before their beef can be retailed under a government approved grass-fed retail label.

In contrast, demand for manufacturing beef is overwhelming because 60% of beef in the US is ground for mince and this is the market area in which Americans are saying demand for imported beef will be strongest.

Ground beef values have doubled over the last 10 years, lifting by 25% over the last two years.

Further price rises were expected on the back of a drought induced slump in domestic production and the blocking of feeding cattle imports from Canada and Mexico as a result of recently adopted regulations on country of origin labelling (COOL).

The product most likely to be welcomed from Ireland would be 90% certified lean cow beef trimmings which would be blended with fattier trimmings produced in the US itself to create burger mince with a texture and flavour acceptable to US consumers.

It is currently being purchased for 251c/pound (approximately 470c/kg) delivered – including freight charges and insurance.

The ideal consignment has been described as a 40,000 pound (approximately 18t) container.

Robert Forster is a UK-based journalist who produces the Beef Industry Newsletter. 

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