Assured Food Standards, the body that administers the red tractor mark, is racing to adapt the assurance scheme to cover mature beef before the Over Thirty Months scheme ends.
AFS believes that to win the backing of retailers for OTM beef products, it is crucial that they are covered by the recently relaunched red tractor scheme (The Grocer, April 2, p4).
AFS chief executive David Clarke said: “We need to find a way of ensuring that when OTMS is finished, we are able to offer assurance of mature cattle.
“When OTM began in 1996, assurance in cattle had only just started and there was no assurance of mature animals. When the scheme ends, dairy herd producers will find that the
market requirements have changed substantially, and they will need to demonstrate their meat is assured. It’s a good example of where AFS has got a an important role to play.”
OTM is a relic of the BSE catastrophe that prevents older cattle, believed by scientists to be more at risk from the disease, from entering the food chain.
Last year the government announced it would lift the rule, but only when a suitable scheme was in place to ensure every cow aged over thirty months was tested for BSE before it entered the food chain. That is expected to be in place later this year.
News that OTM was to be abandoned delighted farmers, who receive compensation for culled cattle at well below the rate they could sell them on the open market if they were able.
But they are all too aware that supermarkets will be cautious about selling products made of OTM beef. Waitrose has gone on record as saying it will not stock OTM beef, while others are reluctant to commit until details of the testing regime are clearer.
AFS believes assurance of OTM beef will go some way to addressing any reservations they may have.
Richard Clarke