THE escalating Europe-wide scandal which has revealed that horsemeat is being sold as beef has caused consumers to question exactly what they might be eating.
Food Minister Phil Gawne MHK believes the issue highlights the importance of being able to trace the provenance of meat.
And accordingly, that the traceability of Manx beef – with farmers adhering to strict rules – is just one reason why residents should shop local.
Eric Taggart of Billown Farm, in Ballasalla, who has about 400 beef cattle, agrees.
He said: ‘By buying Manx beef you are helping Manx agriculture to continue.
‘And what comes with that is the knowledge of traceability and that the food is what it says it is, not just what you think it ought to be.’
He explained that calves have two sets of plastic tags inserted into their ears shortly after they are born.
On the tags, it states the holding number the calf was born on and a unique six-digit number for the animal.
Mr Taggart stressed the significance of the tags: ‘If they haven’t got two pairs of tags, you can’t sell them legally.’
The holding number and the animal’s unique number stays with it even when the butcher gets it as a carcase.
Cattle are also issued with their own passport, with the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture passport centre operating the Bovine Identification and Tracing System (BITS).
Information included on the passport includes the animal’s breed, sex, date of birth, unique number, and the number of its parents, as well as its current holding number and address.
Every time it leaves the holding – for example, if it is sold to another farm, taken to an agricultural show, or goes to a mart – its movement must be noted.
Mr Taggart said: ‘The idea was, if there was an outbreak of a disease like Foot and Mouth, heaven forbid, then it could be traced back to see where the cattle had been.’
Meanwhile, high standards are compulsory for Manx beef farmers through the Red Tractor food assurance scheme, which is compulsory for those wanting to send their cattle to the meat plant.
The scheme covers production standards developed by experts on areas including safety, hygiene, animal welfare and the environment.
In addition, farmers applying for a payment under DEFA’s Countryside Care Scheme must comply with two sets of standards in order to qualify.
Farms are inspected to ensure the standards are being met.
They include domestic requirements relating to EC directives and regulations which are specified by the European Commission, and standards of good management and best practice.
Mr Taggart said that with Manx beef, consumers could be assured that it had been produced on local family farms, and not on an industrial scale.
And that being a small island where most farmers know each other means they have to comply with the regulations.
He urged residents to ask butchers where the meat they wanted to buy had come from: ‘Ask if it has come from the meat plant. That way you can be certain what you’re eating.’
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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