Cattle disposal scheme clouds supply/price outlook Surprisingly large volumes of beef could be taken out of the EU market through the new scheme for destroying cattle aged over 30 months as an anti-BSE measure. Details announced by the European Commission on Wednesday following the previous day's meeting of the beef management committee pointed to a culling programme more like the UK Over-Thirty Month Scheme than had been indicated by the original agreement between agriculture ministers a week earlier. Traders had been told the older cattle would still be allowed into the food chain in member states other than the UK if BSE tests yielded negative results. This was interpreted as meaning heavy disposals would be necessary only until an extensive network of testing facilities was in place, as the incidence of BSE seemed unlikely to exceed a couple of beasts per thousand, and would probably be much lower across the whole EU industry. However, the announcement on Wednesday included a provision for member states with BSE testing already in place to use the scheme for destroying animals even if the tests proved negative. Germany was authorised to do so. The implication, at least in principle, is the potential for a huge cull similar to that in the UK, where nearly all cattle aged more than 30 months have been banned from the food chain since 1996. The effect in this country has been to cut beef production by nearly 30%. In practice an EU-wide cull on the same scale is out of the question, but the signal from Brussels and Germany hints at supply reduction unexpectedly close to the anticipated downturn of 10-15% in consumption as a consequence of the new BSE scare. {{MEAT }}