Livestock and Meat Commission (LMC) Chief Executive Ian Stevenson has welcomed the attainment of BSE Negligible Risk Status for Northern Ireland’s beef industry. Notification of the risk classification upgrade to the safest level was confirmed by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) at a recent meeting in Paris.

“The development will bring with it a number of benefits for both meat processors and livestock farmers,” said Stevenson.

“In the first instance, the amount of specified risk material that must be disposed of by processers will be reduced.

This is a saving in its own right. However, the additional volumes of meat that can now be sold commercially from each beef carcase will add directly to the return received per finished animal.

Looking ahead, the LMC representative said that the OIE decision should have positive implications for Northern Ireland’s beef industry on export markets.

“It should allow processors to put more beef into those countries they are currently servicing. For example, the 30-month age restriction, where beef is concerned, is no longer a restraint.

“But the fact that we now have secured the safest BSE status should make the attainment of new export markets for beef more achievable.”

Stevenson said that beef processors in Northern Ireland are currently targeting a range of countries, including China.

“The Paris decision will significantly improve the reputation of beef produced in Northern Ireland. And this is a very important factor when it comes to doing business in countries like China and the United States, where there is a significant demand for manufacturing beef.”

Stevenson confirmed that the LMC paid the fee that accompanied the submission to OIE, requesting BSE Negligible Risk Status for Northern Ireland.

“A joint application was submitted on behalf of Northern Ireland and Scotland. Our portion of the accompanying fee amounted to £4,500.

“It was a charge that we were more than happy to meet. But, more than that, LMC staff also played a key role in developing the overall submission that was presented to OIE on behalf of the beef industry.”