Sides and boxes of German bull beef are now circulating in the British wholesale trade at prices about 40% lower than the supermarkets are paying for home produced steer and heifer meat. Some of the product from Germany is visible on Smithfield market in London, and several traders and processors elsewhere in the country have confirmed to The Grocer its easy availability at around 55p per lb for the bone-in sides. These reports appear to support claims by some producers' leaders of a serious threat to market stability in this country as collapsing demand on the continent forces beef traders there to seek British buyers. Rumours of German beef reaching this country in significant quantities began in the middle of last month (The Grocer, January 20, p24). And media attention has since been attracted by the discovery of banned spinal cord in a couple of consignments, the latest at the Anglo Dutch Meats Eastbourne plant. The inferred risk of BSE in German beef arriving here has prompted predictable demands from home producers' spokesmen for renewed commitments by the multiples to sourcing only from British cattle, but the commercial picture is hazy. Farming lobbyists including the National Beef Association fear the cheapness of the German commodity will prove an irresistible temptation to a buyer somewhere in the multiple sector, and if just one supermarket operator starts purchasing imports the price of all home-killed beef will slide. Yet reaction within the wholesale and processing sector is sceptical. "Yes, there's a quite a lot of this German beef around, and it's cheap, but we have a two-tier market and there's no sign of it changing," one of the biggest UK processors told The Grocer on Tuesday. The consensus opinion in the wholesale trade seems to be that the major multiples will not, and the major processors cannot, relax the rigorous standards of traceability and broader due diligence which effectively shut most of the continental beef out of the mainstream retail and manufacturing markets. "We're well accustomed to seeing 60, 70, 80 pence per pound differences between home killed and imported prices," The Grocer was told. The effect of extra supply from Germany would be to put pressure on parts of the manufacturing, foodservice and catering markets, perhaps softening the price of home killed forequarters slightly, but would not destabilise the multiple retail trade. {{MEAT }}