An erratic future could be in store for the beef industry.
Abundant cheap beef is likely in the short term, but by the end of the decade home production could be falling and import dependency increasing.
This outlook was described by several speakers at the British Meat Federation's annual conference last week.
A major influence in the short term is the proposed relaxation of the Over Thirty Month Scheme.
However, further reform of European Union agricultural policy could persuade many farmers to reduce beef breeding herds.
According to Bob Bansback, corporate strategy director with the Meat and Livestock Commission, UK beef output by 2009 could be down to just 728,000t, only about 6% higher than in the current year, despite the return of cattle from the OTMS.