Tesco plans to stock beef from cattle aged Over Thirty Months, Waitrose will not and Somerfield is mulling over the issue following the government’s decision to allow OTM beef back into the food chain.
A Tesco spokesman said the multiple had always planned to take OTM beef.
A spokesman for Somerfield said: “We believe that meat from animals over 30 months is safe for human consumption and we are currently considering how we may use such material once it becomes available.”
Waitrose confirmed speculation it would not be interested. “The improvements in the consistent eating quality of our beef have meant that customer confidence has improved and our beef sales are better than pre-BSE levels,” said a spokeswoman for the chain. “This has helped Waitrose significantly grow its market share for beef and we are now punching far above our weight. Following this long-term success, we do not plan to change our current policy.”
The Food Standards Agency is developing a communications strategy, while the UK’s assurance schemes are working to incorporate cow beef.
The industry takes the view that OTM beef should only be differentiated in terms of fitness for purpose. Farmers are set to go ahead and finish cattle despite demand uncertainty.
British Meat Processors Association director Peter Scott said that the industry had been frustrated over the long wait but “the careful precautions and building of consumer confidence have paid off”.
Alyson Magee