Discounts On Older Cattle Must Be Challenged

UK - The National Beef Association has called on finishers throughout the UK to demand an acceptable scientific, or commercial, explanation, from processors, for the universal discount on beef taken from 30-36 month old cattle – which is invariably retailed with beef from under 30 month stock without consumers being told it has been taken from cheaper animals.
calendar icon 22 March 2011
clock icon 2 minute read

The Association is also advising feeders to make clear that the high cost of grain, and the pressing need to finish more cattle over a second summer on cheaper grass for processing at 30-36 months old, makes the removal of these unjustified price penalties even more necessary.

“Beef cattle production costs have reached a critical stage, so feeders can no longer accept a discount on 30-36 month old cattle, with an average carcase weight of 350 kilos, which varies between 5p to 15p per dwkg and takes anything between £17.50 to £52.50 a head off much needed market returns,” explained NBA chairman, Oisin Murnion.

“We have looked at the problem carefully and admit to finding it hard to see any reason for the deduction except that the extra one day to six months in age provides processors with an excuse to pay farmers less for beef that is in no way different from the under 30 months product.”

The NBA thinks some abattoir owners may be prepared to argue that EU regulation requires the vertebral column to be removed from all carcases over 30 month and 30-36 month old cattle fall into this category.

“But we dismiss this as a valid reason because all retailers demand a mix of bone-in or boned out cuts and so the removal of the vertebral column, which is a routine, processing line, task and takes only a few minutes, would have to be undertaken on a large proportion of prime cattle anyway,” said Mr Murnion.

“Nor does acceptance of the 36 month age cut off in anyway diminish retail tenderness, or any other important specification, and so the Association thinks that all under 36 months old steers and heifers that hit 3-4L fatness targets should be seen as providers of first class prime beef and their suppliers automatically paid the same price per kilo as slightly younger cattle.”

“Their beef faces no additional public health cost, retail product descriptions require no notification to consumers that 30-36 month beef is different from under 30 month beef, but processors still universally insist on unjustified blanket discounts.”

“This being the case the NBA urges all finishers to press the case for relieving soaring feed costs," Mr Murnion added.

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