Bord Bia is to use Irish lamb’s “green credentials” and traceability “from farm to fork” to drive sheepmeat exports to the US over the coming years, according to its CEO Tara McCarthy.
She said Bord Bia research shows US consumers seek “quality lamb that is reared ethically and comes from a natural environment”.
McCarthy’s remarks come as it was announced during the Bord Bia Government-led trade mission to the US that Irish lamb will appear on the menu for the first time in the country. Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue revealed that Ireland has secured full access to export sheepmeat to the US this week.
As part of its work to increase the consumption of Irish lamb stateside, 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.
Currently the two largest suppliers of imported sheepmeat to the US, New Zealand and Australia, represent 98% of all imports in volume terms and it is some of this market share which Irish lamb will have to gain to increase its export volume.
The announcement on sheepmeat comes ahead of Bord Bia’s June launch of a three-year co-funded EU campaign, Working with Nature – European Beef and Lamb, which will see it investing €1m in marketing and promotional seminars, events and promotional activities from 2022 to 2025.
In 2021, total Irish food and drink exports to the US were valued at €1.3bn, up 22% on 2020. In 2022, overall sheepmeat consumption in the US is forecast to stand at 207,000t, providing what Bord Bia describes as “perfect export opportunities for Irish companies”.
Speaking in Washington during the trade mission, Bord Bia CEO 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.
She said: “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.”
Irish lamb added to portfolio
US wholesaler Marx Foods, which already imports Irish beef, will be among the first to receive Irish lamb in the US. Director of the company Justin Marx said: “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 director for North America Henry Horkad added: “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.”
Last December, the Department of Agriculture confirmed the lifting by the United States Department of Agriculture (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.