It was a great day for the Irish beef industry as Irish Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney arrived in New York to officially launch Irish beef in the US marketplace.

The launch comes 16 years after the banning of all European beef in the United States following a number of BSE (commonly known as mad cow disease) crises in the 1990s.

It was the culmination of over two years of work by the Minister and Bord Bia, the Irish state agency charged with promoting Irish food and drink. Efforts to get Irish beef approved for import to America began in earnest after positive meetings between Minister Coveney and the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) over two years ago.

Irish beef products were subject to rigorous tests on quality and health to ensure that they were safe to sell in the US market. Bord Bia also submitted Irish beef to comprehensive, independent “taste tests” to demonstrate the higher quality of Irish beef.

Bord Bia is eager to replicate the success of Irish dairy in the US. For example, Kerrygold is the most popular imported butter product in America.

Speaking at the launch yesterday Bord Bia's Country Manager for North America Karen Coyle said that “an opportunity like this does not come around very often.” US-made beef production has declined over the past number of years, primarily due to drought in cattle-rearing states, which affords Irish beef a market opportunity.

Bord Bia is marketing Irish beef as a premium product in the United States, highlighting the fact that Irish cattle are grass-fed and naturally raised. Ireland is associated with green pastures and healthy living and it is this image of Ireland that they are keen to promote in the US.

The proof of the pudding is, as they say, in the eating of it and Bord Bia is ready to have people taste it. They are encouraging US distributors and consumers to “taste the difference” between Irish beef and their competitors', confident that they are delivering a superior product.

The event at the New York Irish Consulate on Monday morning was followed by the official launch in Michelin-starred restaurant Daniel’s on Sunday evening. Bord Bia assembled some of New York’s top chefs and restaurateurs for the event, emphasizing the premium brand they are developing for Irish beef.

As the first EU country to have its beef readmitted to the American market Ireland will have something of a head start over other EU countries. Despite its diminutive size, Ireland is one of the largest exporters of beef globally and now, with access to the largest food market in the world, things are looking bright for Irish beef.

Indeed business is already growing withMonday's announcement of the first partnership between County Louth-based ABP Foods Group and US company Sysco, worth over $17 million. Fifty years ago America was the biggest export market for Irish beef. While that has changed drastically in the half century since, many in the Irish beef industry will be hoping for a long, fruitful relationship between Irish beef and American consumers.

You can visit the USA's dedicated Irish beef website here

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