Slaughter cattle aged between 30-48 months still face unexpected marketing problems despite no longer being subject to BSE brain testing – and this has annoyed the National Beef Association.
In a surprise move the Food Standards Agency (FSA) ambushed the slaughter sector, last week, with unexpected demands on MHS staff, that 30-48 month old cattle must be split at lairage level and are also processed separately from both under 30 month old cattle and cattle over 48 months old.
“This meant that slaughterers would have had to separate cattle into three groups for processing, said NBA director, Kim Haywood, who was the only farmer’s representative present during stormy discussions between the FSA and industry specialists in London last Thursday (January 8th).
“The FSA was attacked because it has imposed unnecessary, impractical and expensive regulation on the industry without prior consultation and in complete contradiction to its recent promise to look for science based solutions, incurring the lowest possible cost, when faced with emerging food safety problems in the processing sector.”
As a result of the heavy pressure that was put on the FSA last week, the industry has forced the FSA to take a more flexible approach, based on the requirement of the legislation, that only two groups of cattle need to be separated in the lairage, (i) animals under 48 months that do not have to be brain stem tested and (ii) those over 48 months of age that do need to be tested.
“There is also huge annoyance with the FSA in Northern Ireland and Scotland where an original decision not to impose three age streams by regional FSA specialists was changed as a result of unnecessary insistence from FSA officials in London,” said Ms Haywood.
“Some of the frustration within the industry stems from the fact that many slaughterers do not have lairages big enough to physically separate three age batches without mixing animals from different farms and the NBA is also struggling to see how separating cattle into three age batches in a lairage can help food safety. In fact, the unnecessary requirement would have caused major animal welfare and meat quality issues and could have resulted in mistakes being made”.
“There can be no doubt that the FSA has imposed additional, and costly, regulation on the beef industry without any scientific justification whatsoever – and at a time when anti-BSE regulation should be relaxed in line with the steadily diminishing number of cases each year.”
“If the expensive requirement to remove the vertebral column and then dispose of it as Category One SRM is also removed as soon as possible, then the best of 30-48 month old cattle should soon have the same market value as those under 30 months old,” Ms Haywood added.
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