The US Department of Agriculture has a strict definition for grass-fed beef and which is ‘very’ defined according to Bord Bia’s US Office Manager, Karen Coyle.

Speaking following the launch of Irish Beef’s return to the US market, she said the definition basically means that the animal is must be on grass for its entire life and has got to be either fed grass or grass-based products like silage or hay.

According to Coyle, the definition has come from the fact that in the US there is a huge amount of grain-fed beef and the grass fed option is a markedly different product.

Coyle said ‘grass fed’ falls within a category called ‘natural’ which a hugely growing sector in the US.

Irish situation

“When we talk to the US authorities, they understand that we have a different grass-fed production system,” she said.

Coyle said the US officials understand that for animal welfare and environmental purposes Irish farmers bring their animals inside for a short time of the year are fed concentrates.

“While that strictly takes us out of the strict definition here in the US, we are now working with them to develop the definition for ‘Irish grass fed beef’ or ‘Irish sustainable grass fed beef’.

“That means we can go to the US and say this is how we produce and this is how we measure what we say grass fed beef is.”

According to Coyle, the US officials do recognise that we produce beef differently in Ireland.

“We believe that prospects in this area are looking good and that we will get a definition for ‘Irish grass fed beef’,” she said.