The US Department of Agriculture has awarded the quality shield to Irish beef and granted approval for it to be marketed as a product of Ireland in US shops. 

Bord Bia has welcomed the approval, and said the decision will allow it and its customers to use marketing labels identifying Irish beef on retail shelves.

The announcement came on the first day of a week-long trade mission to the US led by Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed.

Under this approval, Irish beef sold in the US from Bord Bia approved plants can carry the USDA quality mark, which guarantees that it has been raised on more than an 80% grass diet; out to pasture for six-eight months a year, on a sustainable, fully traceable family quality-assured farm; and has been raised without the use of growth hormones; and that the use of antibiotics have been treated responsibly.

The approval is the culmination of three years of engagement with the US Department of Agriculture, and last week's visit by the USDA to Ireland to audit Bord Bia's systems as the competent authority in registering and monitoring the Irish exporters who wish to use the claims.

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Speaking to RTÉ News in Washington, Mr Creed described the development as "significant" as it would enable the Irish agri-food sector "to move up the value-added chain" in the US, being able to market the beef as Irish, grass-fed and sustainably produced. 

He said it was "great" to see Irish beef on supermarket retail shelves and that Bord Bia would now be "building on that marketing initiative".

Mr Creed met a number of senior agriculture and trade representatives of US President Donald Trump's administration while in DC, including what he described as a "very useful" meeting with Ray Sterling the US President's adviser on agri-trade matters.

One of the key tenets to Mr Trump's vision for the US is to "Buy American", but Mr Creed said he did not see this as an obstacle to Irish agri-food products.

He said after his meetings it was "abundantly clear" that this was an administration that was "settling in still" and there were a "lot of key appointments yet to be made".

He said he had found the members of the Trump administration had a "favourable disposition" when it came to doing business with Ireland in particular and key to that had been receiving the approval from the USDA for the marketing claims.

But Mr Creed said he would like to see matters moving forward within the context of a comprehensive trade agreement, which would ultimately give more sustained market access across the US.

He said he appreciated that there were "areas of concern" for the US, and that renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement was the priority now, however the Minister said he was hopefully the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership trade deal between the EU and US, would be kick-started at the end of this year.

Given rumblings from the new administration, T-TIP is widely considered to be dead in the water in the US, but Mr Creed said he was hopeful that it could be resurrected later this year after the German elections or early in 2018.

He said the most important thing for Ireland in the context of Brexit was to have access to open markets. He said Ireland was pitching itself at the premium end of the beef market in the US and now that producers could use the marketing claims that would enable exporters to build on their quantity.

Irish beef was the first EU beef allowed into the US in 2015 but so far the numbers have been lower than was initially hoped for.

Meanwhile Wexford company Slaney Foods International based in Bunclody has landed a deal to supply premium specialty Irish Hereford beef to some 200 Lidl stores in the US.

The Managing Director of Slaney Foods International said the company had started from "humble beginnings" but now would have its grass-fed Irish beef on US shelves as well as in Lidl stores in Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, Slovenia, Romania, Cypurs, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic.