Bone exports help make
Continental meat cheap
By Philip Clarke
BRITISH pig bones are being exported in a weekly trade to be rendered down into meat and bonemeal (MBM) and fed to Continental livestock.
Meat from these animals may then be shipped back into the UK, undercutting prices in the home market.
In addition, large amounts of British sheep and pig bones that are exported in the form of carcasses and bone-in cuts, are also being used – quite legitimately – by Continental renderers for incorporation into pig and poultry rations.
Yet UK law prevents bones being used in this country. All mammalian MBM is either incinerated or put into landfill sites.
"MBM may not be exported, even though the bones for making it can be," says Alan Lawrence of the UK Renderers Association. "This is a clear anomaly, with MBM used extensively in Continental rations."
The Meat and Livestock Commission reckons Continental pig producers enjoy a £1/pig advantage from feeding MBM, with UK farmers paying an extra £14m a year for having to use alternative protein sources.
The industry as a whole is losing another £32m from the loss of the MBM market, with renderers now charging about £80/t to take pig bones away.
Given these extra costs, and the Continental demand, a steady trade in bones has evolved since government aid for renderers stopped in February. Industry sources suggest it amounts to several hundred tonnes a week.
According to Seamus Carr of Unipork, Co Tyrone, most of the pig bones from Northern Irish abattoirs are now going abroad, mainly to Belgium, Germany and Holland. "They have no positive value, but at least we are not charged to have them taken away." British abattoirs are also believed to be extensively involved in the trade.
Dutch and Danish trade representatives confirm that MBM is used in their pig production. But inclusion rates are low, they say, and the major exporters are working with UK supermarkets to ensure supplies destined for this market come from MBM-free sources.
"Concern about the use of animal proteins in the UK is not being ignored," says Robert Smith of the Dutch Meat Board. "But we cannot change overnight and do not need to. MBM has been a constituent of pig feed for centuries and the Dutch history of quality and safety speaks for itself. To suggest we are supplying an inferior product is offensive."