Knackermen must go, or beef ban will stay, claim renderers
By Shelley Wright
RENDERERS claim the EU beef export ban will not be lifted unless the UK decides to stop using knackermen to dispose of fallen stock.
Brian Rogers, chairman of the UK renderers association said the UK knackering industry was "a source of amazement to our European colleagues. It is antiquated and unsafe because there is a risk that unwanted meat can get into the human food chain".
"The system just cannot go on and I believe there is no prospect of getting the beef ban lifted so long as fallen stock are handled in this way," he added.
On the Continent fallen stock must be sent directly to dedicated rendering plants. In the UK they are collected by knackermen, or buried on the farm. But Mr Rogers said only about half the expected number of fallen stock each year in the UK were handled by renderers, with the rest presumably buried on farms.
And the numbers of carcasses being buried on farms could increase in the coming months because of governments decision to axe rendering support payments from Mar 1 next year.
Renderers had already started to phase in collection charges, which will rise to about £100/t when the support is removed.
By October the rendering charges would be at a level where it would be cheaper for abattoirs to dump their leftovers in landfill, Mr Rogers said. Equally, charges for collecting from knackermen would increase, making on-farm burial more likely.
The UKRA, NFU and Federation of Fresh Meat Wholesalers are all strongly opposed to raw carcass waste being dumped in landfill, which has been suggested by MAFF as an alternative to rendering. They believe there would be a public outcry, and that government must reverse its decision and continue the rendering aid.
But Mr Rogers said MAFF had told the industry there was no new money, and if the support was to continue, the money would have to be diverted from other areas of existing BSE-related expenditure.
Peter Scott, secretary of the Federation of Fresh Meat Whole-salers, said no decisions had been reached on where that money could come from.
Without it, he predicted renderers and abattoirs might absorb some of the extra costs, but most would be passed back to farmers, probably in a headage charge for every animal processed.
The NFU has said that could be as much as £40 a beast for cattle. Sheep and pigs would also be affected.
Ben Gill, NFU deputy president, insisted the support had to continue. But there was no justification for the cash being switched from other BSE-related support because government had already made large savings in the OTMS by cutting the price, introducing a weight ceiling, and also by putting the scheme out to tender, which had slashed the costs. *