9 January 1998

Extra costs for over 12-month sheep?

By Jonathan Riley

ADDITIONAL processing costs for sheep over 12 months old could amount to £11.90 a carcass.

General secretary of the Feder-ation of Fresh Meat Wholesalers, Peter Scott, calculated that the specified risk material regulations, introduced on Jan 1, would incur extra processing costs, inspection charges and lost carcass value.

From Jan 1, carcasses from sheep over 12 months old will have head, spleen and spinal cords removed. A Meat Hygiene Service technician is needed to oversee procedures. And approved cutting plants have to have agreed procedures devised with an official vet, adding costs. "Even lamb under 12 months old will attract some of the extra handling and inspection costs because the dentition of all sheep will have to be checked to age sheep. This will cost about £2.40 a head," said Mr Scott.

"But at £7.50 a head, the largest slice of the predicted costs could be incurred in the carcass export market. Whole carcasses are preferred by the export market. But with this legislation all carcasses of older lamb and mutton would have to be processed down to cuts, devaluing the product.

"Retailers are already asking for lamb sourced from animals under 12 month old, and the long-term effect could be to expose the UK to imports of younger lamb."

The NFU was concerned that although abattoirs and cutting plants would bear the costs initially, eventually the additional burden would be passed back to producers.

NFU president, Sir David Naish, said that would put unbearable pressure on farms. &#42

HOW COSTS MOUNT UP

&#8226 £2.40 inspection and separation of lambs over 12 months old.

&#8226 £2 extra processing of carcass.

&#8226 £7.50 lost export value.