NBA urges Defra to ditch latest EU dictats

The National Beef Association (NBA) is urging the government to ditch new EU regulations which result in some large abattoirs overdressing carcasses.

It says European Commission inspectors found price-reporting abattoirs (those culling more than 20,000 cattle a year) taking too much fat and flesh away, before they are weighed for payment.

According to the NBA, the undefined nature of carcase tissue removal allows variations in dressing standards between plants. The EU regulations specify how much of the animal is cut off before the carcass is weighed and the farmer is paid but NBA chairman Duff Burrell said some abattoirs were now cutting off as much as possible so they could pay farmers as little as possible. "Parts of the new EU specification are so poorly defined," said Burrell. "You also can't accurately compare prices in France or Germany because they're using different specifications."

He added: "Inspectors found that not only was too much fat removed from the brisket but some flesh was cut away too. They also reported that the pizzle sheath area was over-trimmed and additional tissue was cut back from the flank edge that should have been left on before weighing."

Burrell said the new EU specification in this country did not conform with EU regulations and urged the government to replace them with the old EU regulations.

The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers agreed that the new regulations were less easy to police. Said policy director Norman Bagley: "We wouldn't miss them but Defra has shown no sign of wanting the necessary transparency."

Defra is set to hold a stakeholder meeting at the end of the month to try and come up with a specification that everyone can agree with, according to Peter Scott, of the British Meat Processors Association. Said Scott: "It's [the current regulations] a stringent standard and if everyone uses it, we believe it's transparent and also sends the right message to farmers that they should raise animals of the correct conformation and weight, and sell them to us in that condition."

He added that Defra would go back to Brussels with a new proposed specification by July: "There will be a compromise to be made somewhere."

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