Beef processor ABP has resumed prime beef exports to Italy after a 10-year gap.

The company, which won a Queen’s award for exports before BSE hit the trade in 1996, has sent three truckloads of bull and heifer beef to the country.

Chief executive Richard Cracknell said:

“It’s fair to say it is a gesture at this stage.

But we want to reconnect with this market – it may be important to us in the future.

It is good for confidence, and for farmers to know the UK can export beef,” he added.

Beef destined for Italy had to meet tight requirements, ABP’s export manager Steve Feehan said.

To produce the white fat required, animals had to be fed grain and straw.

“Our first shipments were young bulls U and E grade, up to 420kg with a fat score of 3 and 4L, and heifers were R, +U and E, under 24 months of age with a fat score of 3 and 4L. Ideally, heifers should be over 300kg.”

Price was no longer an advantage, said Mr Cracknell. With UK values averaging 210-212p/kg, the Italians were not being offered the cheap beef they might have hoped for.