CLIPPING CATTLE to present clean hides at slaughter is stressful to stock, dangerous to humans and can damage hides, but it can be avoided with some changes to management.

The Food Standards Agency recommends changing the diet before slaughter and increasing the amount of clean bedding to reduce muck and, therefore, harmful bacteria levels.

Its target is to reduce food poisoning by 20% by 2006, said the FSA”s Mary Howell. “Best practice reduces the spread of harmful bacteria such as salmonella, E coli and Campylobacter, so clean livestock equals cleaner carcasses.”

Ms Howell agreed that straw bedding costs were high, but pointed out producers can make changes in the run-up to slaughter.

“Feeding straw produces firmer muck and decreases harmful bacteria on hides. Adequate bedding on farm, during transport, at market and in lairage also reduces bacteria levels.”

Livestock producers can obtain free copies of the FSA”s Clean Beef Cattle slaughter guides (0845 606 0667; fax 0208 867 3225).