26 April 1996

Beef shortage warning if cattle ban goes ahead

MEAT traders have warned MPs of a possible beef shortage as the ban on cattle over 30 months entering the food chain comes into effect.

In a memo submitted to the Commons agriculture select committee the Federation of Fresh Meat Wholesalers also calls for an end to the calf slaughter scheme.

"Calves will be needed for the human food chain as manufacturing meat to replace cows lost to the human food chain. Low calf prices would have an impact throughout the beef chain and would be reflected in store prices, keeping finishers in business," it says.

The Federation says it is both "unscientific and economically unsound to destroy steers and heifers between 30- and 42-months-old". Governments BSE advisory committee (SEAC) and the World Health Authority have said such animals, boned-out in line with current rules, are perfectly safe for human consumption. And forcing farmers to send cattle for slaughter before 30 months will lead to more intensification, more bull beef and consequently more expensive beef, it warns.

The Federation also told MPs that the need to remove the EC beef export ban is no longer urgent. "Even if there was political will, overseas consumer concerns will remain and restrictions on British beef availability will make our product uneconomical overseas for the foreseeable future."

But it does "strongly commend" the progressive slaughter of all cows born on farms with an incidence of BSE before Jan 1, 1991 by the end of 1997. Such a selective slaughter policy should remove cattle most likely to develop BSE in the future and result in a dramatic fall in the number of BSE cases. &#42

Gay Cahill