beef carcasses© Rex

Farm leaders are expected to launch the beef sector’s first code of practice for abattoirs in the next week.

One key development will be a notice period that processors have to give farmers when pricing grids and penalty charges are changed.

The code is also expected to contain commitments from abattoirs to give clarity on waste disposal costs and trimming specification.

The NFU has been working on the guidelines with the British Meat Processors Association since last summer’s beef price crisis.

At a Westminster beef summit on 1 July, both sides agreed to draw up a code to make processor payments more clear to farmers.

NFU livestock board chairman Charles Sercombe told Farmers Weekly at the time that “openness and transparency” was needed in the abattoir’s terms and conditions.

BMPA director Stephen Rossides has said a voluntary code would not be prescriptive or enforced industry-wide.

Beef cattle prices have improved considerably over the autumn and winter as supplies have tightened.

But in 2014 the all-steers deadweight price crashed from more than 380p/kg in January to a low of 326.9p/kg in July.

Farmers claimed the higher store cattle price in the winter of 2013 meant many beef finishers were losing money on every animal sold.

This week the National Beef Association renewed its calls for an agricultural ombudsman, arguing the supermarket watchdog was not doing enough for farmers.

NBA chief executive Chris Mallon said voluntary codes of practice had not been shown to work in practice.

“We need a watchdog with teeth for the entire agricultural sector, to look at contracts between primary suppliers and primary producers – whether that is beef, lamb, eggs, milk or vegetables – to make sure both sides keep to their side of the bargain,” he said.