The British red meat industry is facing extra costs of £10 a carcass after DEFRA’s decision to ban the use of animal tallow as fuel in rendering plants.
Livestock farmers will shoulder most of the costs.
DEFRA has warned abattoirs and processors they must comply with the regulations that came into force in December, or face the loss of government contracts such as the Older Cattle Disposal Scheme.
The United Kingdom Renderers’ Association said it would continue to appeal against the decision, estimating the industry will face a bill of £30m-£50m.
A spokesman for Anglo Beef Processors said: “ABP is outraged at this decision, which will cost the industry £10 an animal and have a serious impact on farmers.
“We would remind Mrs Beckett that this equates to 4p/kg – not incurred by Irish, French, Dutch or other European counterparts at a time when we are being asked to reopen the export market.
“The government has been urging the industry to improve competitiveness and yet they have kicked us in the teeth with this decision.”
ABP’s three plants had all burned tallow, a carbon-neutral fuel, as an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels.
“We are now having to switch to oil at a cost of £70,000 per plant and will be contributing to global warming.
This is madness.”
National Beef Association chief executive Robert Forster said the reopening of exports meant Britain could have added value to some offal cuts, adding £15 a carcass – 5p/kg – to farmers’ returns.
“But these rules will lift slaughtering costs by £6-£10 a carcass – about 4p/kg.
It’s giving with one hand and taking away with the other.”
Mr Forster said it was likely the extra costs facing processors would put pressure on farmers’ returns.
“We hope efforts are made to share this cost and it will not be left for farmers to cope with.”
British Meat Processors Association director Maurice McCartney said:
“It is unlikely farmers can fund an additional £40m from the livestock sector.
The meat processing sector cannot afford it either.
Last year the British meat industry paid the Meat Hygiene Service £27.5m for inspection services, and a further burden of £40m is frankly unthinkable.”
But a spokesman for DEFRA insisted the department had no plans to meet UKRA representatives.
“DEFRA believes the legal position is clear.”
Peter Morris, chief executive of the National Sheep Association, said:
“There are fears this could add 25% to fallen stock costs.
With subsidy taken into account, a farmer can pay £10-£15 for collection and this could add £3-£4 a ewe.”
The National Fallen Stock Company’s Willie Gordon said the firm’s repricing review had been brought forward by two months in the light of a hike in processing costs faced by collectors.
“This could increase collection costs by 15-30%.”
DEFRA’s decision flew in the face of the government’s policy on renewable energy, he said.
“Tallow is a great renewable fuel.”