24 February 2000
Beef labels ‘will cost 20m a year’

By John Burns

NEW beef labelling rules coming into force this year will cost the industry 15 million to put in place and 20 million a year thereafter, it is claimed.

Most of the extra cost will fall on small independent butchers serving the domestic market, said Anthony Gibson of the National Farmers Union.

The European regulations, scheduled to come into effect this September, could put thousands of family butchers out of business, he added.

Mr Gibson has twice been to Brussels to plead exemption for butchers “who by their very nature supply confidence and traceability on a personal basis”.

After 1 September, Brussels proposes that fresh or frozen beef or veal must be labelled with the ear-tag or batch number of the animal from which it came.

Other numbers, detailing the country of slaughter, the abattoir and processing plant, and the maturation period of the meat must also be included.

A second phase of labelling, to become effective on 1 January, 2003, will further tighten up the labelling requirements.

But a draft opinion of the European Committee of the Regions recommends that labels should only give information which consumers would find useful.

Other details, including the slaughter date, category of animal, and maturation period add nothing to confidence and should not go ahead, it adds.