European Beef Approved For Import Into US For First Time In Nearly Two Decades

Following a nearly 16-year ban on the importing of European beef that was imposed in the late 1990s because of an outbreak of mad cow disease, Ireland will be the first of the EU nations to sell its beef in the United States, reports The New York Times.

The ban was lifted last year, and Ireland is the first country to have met the proper safety requirements.

And though Irish beef is likely to make up only a tiny piece of the American meat market, the country is likely to find a particular market "among buyers seeking beef raised in pastures and free from artificial growth hormones," according to The New York Times.

Last year, the United States reportedly imported approximately $4.8 billion in premium grass-fed, hormone-free beef from countries outside the EU, including Paraguay. Demand for such high-quality beef remains on the rise, especially in the restaurant industry.

"This U.S. market is a huge prize given its size and the demand we know exists there for premium grass-fed beef," Ireland's agriculture minister, Simon Coveney, said in an official announcement Monday on Irish national radio. "We now have first-mover advantage as a result of being the first EU member state to gain entry. There is also the large Irish-American community, which will be a key target of our promotional efforts."