Asda has increased the maximum age of cattle used to produce its beef to 36 months from the 30-month standard limit.

The switch would give farmers a better return on their investment, more time to grow cattle to the perfect grade, and would not lead to a difference in eating quality, said Asda.

The move was made jointly with supplier ABP, and the supermarket is also considering allowing animals up to 40 months provided quality could be assured.

Asda’s decision meant the cut-off point for supplying beef to its standard range was now back to pre-1996 levels, when a link between BSE and vCJD was identified. It also comes as the FSA this month increased the age of BSE testing in cattle to 48 months.

“This move should make rearing dairy bull calves into large steers a viable option once again,” said agricultural development manager Pearce Hughes.