Still waiting for a decision



The Food Standards Agency is yet to make a decision on whether bovine vertebral column in cattle 24 months and over should be removed only at cutting plants or also at butchers. A spokeswoman for the FSA told the Journal that the FSA is reviewing responses to a Defra-led consultation on

issues surrounding the lifting of the export ban and would take a decision on which businesses will be allowed to remove vertebral column over the next few months.

"Once a decision has been made to lift the ban, the UK will need to harmonise its Specified Risk Material (SRM) controls, including those on bovine vertebral column, with the rest of Europe. This means that the vertebral column of cattle over 24 months will become SRM and must be removed and disposed of," she said.

Graham Bidston, chief executive of the National Federation of Meat and Food Traders, said butchers would welcome a decision allowing them to remove the vertebral column. Butchers rely on selling a quality product and need to mature beef in the traditional way, which will not be possible without an intact vertebral column, said Mr Bidston. "This is a vital and fundamental difference between a supermarket and the craft operator. EU legislation will deskill butchers if they are not allowed to remove the vertebra."

Butcher John Taylor, who runs a shop - John Taylor & Sons in Coventry - is hoping he will still be allowed to mature his beef on the vertebral column as it allows him to sell the 'Rolls Royce meat of the market'. "If the vertebral column is removed the meat will deteriorate and discolour so we will need to mature it in vacuum packs.

Surrey farmer Jackie Jackman is so dismayed about the potential decision that she has written to her MP with her concerns. She believes it will affect the native breeds of cattle that finish between 24 and 30 months, the local butcher's shop, traditional farms and small abattoirs which may be forced to close meaning that animals will be have transported further.

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