New SRM rules reduce processor costs, free up supplies

By Linda Rano

- Last updated on GMT

The age limit at which the vertebral column must be removed from
beef carcasses without specific measures has been lifted from 24 to
30 months, which should help reduce processors' costs and free up

Beef on the bone up to 30 months old can now be sold without the restrictions imposed by the previous vertebral column Specified Risk Material (SRM) controls.

Spinal column removed from cattle slaughtered between 24 and 30 months had to be treated and disposed of as SRM, leading to many processors refusing to purchase older carcasses.

The later maturing breeds imposed greater cost burdens on the supply chain.

According to the National Farmers Union (NFU), these control measures brought in nearly two years ago imposed additional processing costs of up to £150 per carcass on beef from older animals.

A spokesperson at the NFU explained to that these costs included time spent removing the vertebral column, separate treatment of the materials, ensuring the materials were sent for special rendering, and the administration involved in complying with the regulations.

The age at which vertebral column becomes SRM was lowered in the UK in 2006 when SRM controls were harmonised across the EU, to enable the UK to resume exporting beef.

The change in legislation restores the vertebral column SRM controls to the pre-harmonisation position.

The controls had been introduced in response to concerns about BSE.

SRM is that part of the animal most likely to contain BSE infectivity.

SRM controls remove over 99 per cent of BSE infectivity that may be present in cattle.

The NFU spokesperson said that now there are only " a handful " of BSE cases a year there can be a relaxation of the regulations.

At its peak in 1992 there were over 36,000 cases in the UK, which had dropped to 82 cases by 2004.

Cattle over 30 months are allowed to enter the food supply provided that they have tested negative for BSE.

David Statham, Director of Consumer Protection and Enforcement Group at the Food Standards Agency said that the introduction of the new regulations " is good news for the UK meat industry ."

NFU livestock board chairman Alistair Mackintosh said: " This is good news as the legislation caused an unnecessary two-tier market for different aged cattle.

It also imposed huge costs on processors and butchers whilst reducing the supply of bone-in cuts to customers ."

The NFU hopes that eventually age discrimination will be scrapped altogether, providing greater freedom for processors in selection of animals used.

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