5 April 1996

Beef control order with teeth

MORE than 225,000t of prime British beef could be condemned as unfit for human consumption under MAFFs emergency beef rules which came into force last Friday.

The beef (emergency control) order bans the sale of beef for human consumption from any animals showing signs of more than one pair of permanent incisors.

The same definition is used in MAFFs consultation document on plans to de-bone carcasses from cattle over 30 months.

But Rowland Kershaw-Dalby, secretary of the National Cattle Breeders Association, said, depending on breeding and feeding, cattle could cut their second pair of teeth as young as 21 months.

"That is grossly unfair. If Europe decides that we cant put animals over 30 months into the food chain and MAFF uses teeth to age cattle, animals younger than 30 months will be lost and that will wipe about 30% of our prime beef from the market.

The NCBA supported the idea of removing cull cows from the food chain but if that was going to threaten prime beef, government must find some other method to identify animals.

Cattle identification documents (CIDs) could be used for male cattle and a more accurate system must be found to age females. But Mr Kershaw-Dalby said the ultimate solution was for government to establish a national data base.

At York market on Monday three animals were sent home because they appeared to be breaking their second incisors and were deemed of no value to the meat trade.

York cattle auctioneer James Stephenson denounced MAFFs decision to use teeth as the only method of determining whether a beef animal was young enough to enter the food chain as "a recipe for chaos".

He said government had ignored CIDs in favour of an arbitrary decision by one man on whether an animal was showing signs of second teeth.

&#8226 Highland cattle breeders have written to farm minister Douglas Hogg calling on him to reconsider his ban on cattle over 30 months from the human food chain. Highland steers, reared extensively, take an average 36 months to finish.

Prime British beef:Unfit for human consumption under MAFFrules.