30 June 2000
Farmers pin hopes on beef-label vote

By Alistair Driver and Shelley Wright

FARMERS worried about the cost of proposed beef labelling rules, are pinning hopes on a vote in the European Parliament next Wednesday (5 July).

Euro-MPs will debate the proposals, which would require beef to be labelled with the category of animal it comes from, such as bull, heifer, steer or cow.

The Meat and Livestock Commission has estimated this will add 10% to the cost of production which will be passed back to the producer.

Don Curry, MLC chairman, said the extra cost of the controversial categorisation proposal would do nothing to improve public safety.

The European Commission wants the new beef regulations, which will see the introduction of country of origin labelling, in place by September.

European agriculture ministers are aiming to finalise details of the new regulations when they meet at the end of next month.

Ben Gill, president of the National Farmers Union, described the labelling proposals as bureaucracy gone mad which would hit British farmers hardest.

Unlike in Britain, there are no steers or heifers in Germany and many other European Union countries, he said.

Agriculture minister Nick Brown said his officials were still talking to the commission in a bid to ensure that labelling did not put the UK at a disadvantage.

The processing company ABP attempted to show the likely impact of the proposed laws during a visit by a MEP to its Ellesmere plant on Friday (23 June).

West Midlands MEP Philip Bushill-Matthews was shown how the proposal will add between 20 and 50 an animal to production costs.

Mr Bushill-Matthews has previously tabled amendments to the legislation and will be a keynote speaker during a debate in Brussels before next weeks vote.

Supermarket giant Tesco has also joined the argument warning, that the labels will do nothing for consumers or food safety.

British farming and meat industry bodies are also pushing for the phrase slaughtered in to be dropped from labels.

The bodies believe that the phrase would be inoffensive in many EU member states, but would have negative connotations when translated into English.