The big retailers are refusing to commit to stocking over 30-month beef when the OTM rule is abolished, probably some time next year.
Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury, Morrisons and Somerfield all stopped short of pledging to sell products made from the meat, such as burgers, when it becomes available again for the first time in almost nine years.
Tesco described the abolition of OTM beef as positive news for the British beef industry, adding: “The overwhelming majority of those customers surveyed said they would support a move to allow OTM cattle to be used in food and that they trusted Tesco to ensure all our beef is safe.”
Asda said no decision had been made about whether it
would take OTM beef and a Morrisons spokeswoman said it was still too early to decide.
Somerfield beef buyer Tom Harvey said: “It is a possibility on some of our mince lines.”
Meanwhile farmers’ organisations appeared uncertain about exactly when British OTM beef would re-enter the food chain.
Defra last week said it would be in the latter half of next year. But Meat and Livestock Commission chairman Peter Barr said he did not expect OTM beef to be reintroduced until January 2006.
“The Food Standards Agency will want to ensure the testing systems are robust before lifting the ban,” he said.
National Beef Association chairman Robert Robinson said: “The date that’s being bandied about is September, but we would like it to be sooner so we can get the market up and running before the autumn cull. However, it does seem likely it will be September.”
National Farmers’ Union chief livestock advisor Kevin Pearce said: “Legislatively the earliest they could do it would be the end of June or the beginning of July, so the target we are working for is July.”
Greg Meenehan