High cost of spinal cord removal
REMOVING spinal cord from sheep over six months old, as planned by France from July 1, would cut slaughter line speeds in half and increase costs by k7-8/carcass (£4.30-£5).
That was the stark warning given to a recent meeting of European meat processors in Brussels by representatives of Frances own processing industry.
The meeting, which also included representatives from the UK, Ireland and the Netherlands, was united in its opposition to the measure.
"As well as the additional processing costs, there is also a risk that the removal of spinal cord will devalue the carcass," said Helene Judge of the Meat and Livestock Commissions Brussels office.
The French cost estimate was based on a 2% drop in carcass weight, a 30% loss of productivity and a labour requirement of four extra workers.
There was also concern that, if France goes ahead with its unilateral action, retailers would seek to source more lamb from Third countries, such as New Zealand, which is deemed "low risk" for BSE and would be exempt from the spinal cord ban.
But French processors said they were slightly more optimistic that their government might delay the introduction of the new rules.
"There is a political vacuum until parliamentary elections are completed on June 16," said Ms Judge. But, assuming the new government reflects the right wing flavour of the recent presidential elections, there is a better chance it will respond to industry concerns and drop the proposal. *