WEST NORFOLK: Provenance from field to fork
West Norfolk farmers and abattoir workers have to follow a stringent and transparent control system to ensure that top quality meat ends up on our dinner plates.
This is in contrast with the horse meat scandal which has rocked shoppers’ confidence and sent many back to the butchers.
Investigations have been launched in France and this country after horse meat was found in burgers and ready made lasagnes which were claiming to be beef.
Farmer Nick Barrett and Julian Howard, a butcher and abattoir owner, complete a mountain of paper work to chart an animal’s progress from the field to our forks.
Under the strict system, every time an animal is moved to a show or sold on, this has to be logged in its passport.
Every animal must have an identity tag and detailed medical records to meet Government standards to ensure disease control and shoppers’ confidence.
Mr Barrett and his son Andrew are passionate about their herd of 140 British Shorthorns and nine Galloway cows. They own land at Mintlyn Farm but also graze animals around the area.
Mr Barrett said: “It disappoints me.
“How did a horse get from its native country into a factory and then go in a pie? “I am very proud of what I do. It has been a childhood ambition and taken a lifetime to achieve.
“I like to produce good quality livestock to sell on.”
British livestock farmers must be registered with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and are given holding and herd numbers.
Farmers must also nominate a veterinary practice to work with.
Cattle must have identifying ear tags, which state the holding number and a unique number for the animal to ensure traceability. Beef farmers must fit the tags within 20 days of the calf’s birth.
Each animal must also have a passport, which are issued by the British Cattle Movement Service.
Mr Barrett also keeps a cattle movement book for when he sells on animals. This logs the ear tag numbers, the buyer’s name and whether the passport has been sent.
A medical record is also kept by Mr Barrett which details of the treatment received by the animal throughout its life.
Tuberculous is a compulsory test. In Norfolk, cattle are tested every four years although this differs in other parts of the country.
The Barretts also have high health status which is a voluntary scheme which tests for other diseases such as bovine viral diarrhoea.
His son Andrew added: “We do our best for traceability. We are proud of what we are doing here.
“I would encourage people to buy British.”
Generations of the Howard’s family have run an abattoir in West Norfolk since the business was formed by Harry in 1920 and it is currently run by Julian, who took it over from his father Alan in 2002.
He also has to follow stringent checks when an animal arrives and is also disappointed by the horse meat scandal.
Mr Howard, who runs businesses in Gayton and West Newton, said: “It makes a mockery of the standards that we have to adhere to and are happy to adhere to.
“It makes a mockery that the big boys, as usual, seem to do things their own way. The family butchers are trying to do the job properly.
“I can’t blame the supermarkets but it is fairly obvious to me that if the supermarkets want a producer to produce burgers for 8p or 10p they are not going to be beef burgers.”
Mr Howard and his staff have to go through a variety of paperwork checks when an animal arrives at the abattoir in Gayton.
Firstly, the animal’s identification tags and movement licence are checked.
Further checks of the paperwork are carried out by a vet and a Food Standards Health Inspector, who is on the site throughout slaughter. The abattoir is not allowed to operate unless a food inspector is at the premises.
Mr Howard said: “The checks should be there for the animal’s welfare. If you have a happy and healthy animal it is going to make a better end product.”
West Norfolk smallholders send their animals to the abattoir and staff also look after native British breeds.
Mr Howard has seen an increase in the number of shoppers at his butchers since the scandal broke.
He said: “We have had a lot of new faces in. We provide an excellent service and the butchers are experts in their field. I have done a price comparison with a lot of supermarkets and we are cheaper.
“I hope that this is the start of a drift back towards the family butcher. It is not before time.”
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Friday 24 May 2013
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