The announcement from the Government comes after the US lifted a ban on British beef exports, creating a £66m market in March this year.
The US agreed equivalence of standards on the UK’s disease control measures following a three-week inspection last summer.
The agreement followed an extended period of negotiation and consultation between Government bodies, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), and industry groups that began in early 2016.
These businesses based in Northern Ireland and Wales, have now been officially listed by the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service as eligible to export UK beef to the US.
The news was announced during the UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab’s visit to the US as controversy rages about the Internal Market Bill. The UK Government is pursuing a US trade deal. But there are concerns that negotiations with the EU could lead to either greater border infrastructure between Northern Ireland and Ireland or a border down the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and Britain. US and UK politicians fear this would undermine the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
However, the first containers of beef are now being prepared and are due to arrive in the US within the coming weeks, the AHDB revealed.
Dr Phil Hadley, AHDB international market development director, said: “We are delighted to see the first shipments of beef being prepared for the US for the first time in more than 20 years, representing an historic moment for UK farmers and producers.
“We are rightly proud of our industry, which has a reputation for producing high quality beef to some of the best welfare standards in the world.
“The US represents an important potential market for our red meat exports and this development is the result of the hard work and persistence of industry and government to bring about this crucial next step.This important milestone will bring a fantastic boost to the sector and we look forward to seeing more of our red meat served up on dinner tables across the US in the months and years to come.”
British Meat Processors Association trade policy advisor, Peter Hardwick said: “There is no doubt that this is a very positive development but it is far too early to assess what the level of trade will be. It has been a long road in terms of securing these approvals and they remain limited to four sites only which, in itself, will limit volume for now. The key is that now this has been secured, the pace at which more sites are approved would be expected to increase. The only limiting factor is COVID and the restrictions on inspectors moving between US and UK to conduct inspections so there is likely to be a bit of a delay here."