Beef from the UK could soon be heading to America after government officials agreed the next step of an export deal worth around £66m over the first five years.

The US agreed equivalence of standards on the UK’s disease control measures following a three-week inspection last summer, which means that after the final administrative details are carried out, beef can be shipped across The Pond.

The inspections in August, 2019, included tours of five beef sites, four pork and lamb, as well as several laboratories. It came hot on the heels of a visit by delegates from the US sheep industry, organised by AHDB.

“This is another fantastic boost for industry. The announcement is a crucial step in our ambitions to gain market access for our beef and lamb, to go with our existing pork trade, to the all-important US market,” said Dr Phil Hadley, AHDB’s international market development director.

The inspection in the summer was part financed from the £2m fund of AHDB red meat levies ring-fenced for collaborative projects which is managed by Britain’s three meat levy bodies: AHDB, HCC and QMS.

Alan Clarke, chief executive with Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), said: “West Lothian-based processor, AK Stoddart, has been taking steps to gain the necessary accreditation to export Scotch Beef PGI to the US, and is now in the final stages of approval.

“The Scotch Beef PGI brand is widely known as a true stamp of quality with a reputation that stretches far beyond Scotland.

“Having our prime Scotch Beef in top-end restaurants and on the shelves in the US is massively important for the industry, and we look forward to full market access to showcase our fantastic product.”

Grant Moir, managing director of AK Stoddart, said: “Access to the American market is strategically important to Stoddart’s export plans for Scotch Beef PGI over the coming years.

“Our Scotch Beef has been exceptionally well received in a host of new markets over the last 12 months and we look forward to continuing this success in the US once approval is complete.”

Just how much of a demand for British beef does, however, remain up for debate with the news that Brazil could soon begin exporting significant quantities of fresh beef to the US and current law does not require the foreign country-of-origin label – which is required on all imported beef when entering the U.S. market – to be retained through retail sale.

This means beef produced by American farmers cannot compete against increased quantities of product from Brazil, or anywhere else, which will be labelled the same, following the mandatory removal country of origin labelling (M-COOL) on all beef products sold in retail stores in 2015 – despite calls to re-instate them.

Such imports will also arrive on the back of America’s family-owned cattle farms witnessing annual incomes slashed by almost 20% over the past three years compared to the average five-year income, they received before Donald Trump took office.

During the past three years, suckler calf producers, which make up the largest segment of the cattle industry in America, have seen the average value of their cattle slashed by almost $200 per head, and the fear is many will not survive until the next election.