British lamb has been exported to the US for the first time in more than 20 years after a ban put in place during the BSE epidemic was lifted.
US president Joe Biden committed to scrapping the ban on imports of British meat in September 2021.
The US first banned imports of lamb in 1989 after the initial outbreak of mad cow disease before scrapping the restriction, but it was reimposed in 1996 after the disease resurfaced.
In December last year, ministers confirmed the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) had amended the rule preventing lamb imports from the UK into the US, with the change coming into force on 3 January.
While this lifted the ban, some outstanding steps remained before shipping could start, including an approval process for exporters.
This weekend, the government confirmed the first shipment was made containing lamb produced by meat processor Dunbia from its site in Carmarthenshire, Wales.
In a post on Twitter on Saturday, prime minister Liz Truss hailed the “well-deserved boost to our rural economy” – with the market worth an estimated £37m in the first five years of trade.
The environment secretary, Ranil Jayawardena, said there was an “enormous” opportunity for growth for British food. “Tucking into roast lamb for Sunday lunch is quintessentially British – and now millions of American families will be able to enjoy our top-quality lamb too,” he said.
“The opportunity for growth for British food is enormous – bringing jobs, skills and prosperity across the nation. With our mission to unlock growth, we will continue to secure more opportunities for our farmers and food producers to benefit from new markets.”