It’s been 15 years since “mad cow disease fever” swept Europe and North America. The disease, scientifically known as “bovine spongiform encephalopathy” caused the United States to ban sales of beef from Europe after an outbreak in the mid-'90s. The disease is fatal to cows and can cause a fatal brain disease in humans. Now, a decade and a half later, Ireland has become the first country to be allowed to resume beef exports to the United States, and, according to the Chicago Tribune, annual exports of Irish beef could be worth at least €25 million ($30 million).
The ban was officially lifted in May 2014, but inspections were necessary before exports could officially resume.
“It is now desirable that the U.S. acts expeditiously to extend the approval to the rest of the European Union and to fully bring their import conditions in line with international standards," the European Commission said in a statement.
When Irish beef starts to line the grocery shelves this year, how will it affect our dining experiences? Will chefs be coveting Irish beef instead of USDA or Kobe beef?
“The beef from Ireland is very high-quality,” Suzanne Strassburger of Strassburger Steaks, one of the most famous beef specialists based in New York, told The Daily Meal. “Irish beef is all grass-fed meat that’s some of the best in Europe. Also, being that the meat supply is very tight, it’s a good time to buy.”
Strassburger did admit that it will take a while for American meat purveyors and restaurants to warm up to Irish beef after such a long ban, but she thinks that it could eventually have a pretty big impact on the industry. Not everyone is convinced, though.
"Beef producers in Ireland will have to embark on a significant marketing campaign for their product to have any impact at all in the U.S. market,” said Greg Sherry, the owner of Old Homestead Steakhouse in New York. “I believe that even the competition of additional EU countries entering the U.S. marketplace would have minimal impact, particularly on the wholesale prices of American-produced beef, for the simple reason that USDA prime is still the highest in-demand beef, both domestically and globally.”