Some relief from the pressure of increasing regulatory cost in the beef market appears possible following a vote by the European Parliament to relax new labelling rules due to become EU law from September 1. Processors and producers, with support from some retailers, have campaigned hard against parts of the proposed scheme, in particular a requirement for labels to identify the source of beef according to the sex of cattle. Separating steer, heifer and young bull beef throughout the processing and distribution chain would cost up to £50 per carcase at a time when the industry is already facing heavy new expenses associated with meat inspection, according to slaughtering and packing company executives. Even the National Farmers' Union ­ which broadly supports the labelling project as a way of strengthening the market position of home-produced beef against imports ­ has been lobbying for the categorisation rule to be abandoned. The MEPs' vote to overturn their original proposal does not, however, mean it will definitely be dropped from the legislation. Both the European Commission and the Council of Agriculture Ministers have supported categorisation, and the rule could be reintroduced when the Ministers meet on July 17. But the Meat and Livestock Commission was quick to welcome news of the European Parliament vote. A delighted Don Curry, MLC chairman, said: "This categories requirement means a lot more work and a 5% higher cost without contributing any useful consumer information "There is still a long way to go before we succeed in getting the EU Council of Ministers to agree this formally, but we are delighted with this first step which is a tribute to the efforts of industry, government and the MLC." The National Farmers' Union also applauded the decision in the Europan Parliament. Deputy president Tim Bennett said: "We are pleased that our objections to this extreme suggestion have been heeded. "The proposal would have added huge production costs on to the meat industry without benefiting either the farmer or the consumer." {{NEWS }}