The Food Standards Agency board is meeting on Monday to consider the advice to ministers on BSE testing when the Over Thirty Months Scheme ends.
The public meeting will consider trials earlier this year to find the best way to manage the transition to allowing older cattle to enter the food chain.
Last July, the FSA advised ministers that OTMS should only be lifted after an independent group had advised that a robust BSE testing system was in place.
Monday’s meeting will consider that group’s report, the EC’s Food and Veterinary Office inspection, and feedback from four open meetings held across the UK last month.
MLC economic manager for beef, Duncan Sinclair, said: “We understand the Defra meeting concerning the FVO report went
well and the outlook for ending the OTMS is good. Depending when ministers sign it off, we could be looking at an end to the scheme and a switch to a testing system by November.”
The lifting of OTMS restrictions could lead to softer prices for some beef supplies towards Christmas as a surge of new beef supply suitable for further processing and meat product manufacture is being anticipated in late autumn.
Farmers, plant operators and overseas suppliers fear a price shakeout that could affect prime cattle prices. The MLC has predicted an extra 23,000 tonnes of cow beef becoming available by the end of this year, and pre-BSE outlets such as France are no longer available.
However, a relative shortage of manufacturing beef in the UK, together with the abnormally strong foreign markets due in part to the EU’s structural supply shortage, could soften the blow.
With UK demand buoyant, and changes in the farm subsidy system tightening prime supply, the increase in domestic beef production this year is expected to be negligible, and output could fall by 4% next year.
Mike Ingham, Rachael Porter