Criticism by the Soil Association of the government's moves to aid small and medium sized abattoirs has prompted a sharp rebuttal and unusually warm praise of agriculture minister Nick Brown from militant producer lobbying group the National Beef Association. According to the NBA, Brown's easing of the meat inspection charges burden on many plants will not be made meaningless by the forthcoming ban on the practice of "pithing" as the Soil Association claimed (The Grocer, December 2, p23). The NBA reckons only the smallest operators including some specialising in organic stock will be affected by the pithing ban, whereas the reduced levies will help more sophisticated slaughtering outfits compete against the biggest plants serving supermarkets. {{MEAT }}