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Age of slaughter for cattle

PUBLISHED: 17:58 25 April 2014 | UPDATED: 21:06 29 April 2014

Q- I have heard that, due to BSE, cattle must be slaughtered by 36 months old. Does this apply to breeding animals as well, or is it possible to keep them longer and slaughter them later, but not for human consumption?


Tim Tyne replies: At the height of the BSE crisis, only cattle under 30 months of age were allowed to enter the human food chain. Older animals, such as cull breeding cows, were disposed of under the OTM (Over Thirty Months) scheme, and compensation was paid.

However, with the number of confirmed cases of BSE in the UK having fallen from a peak of 36,680 in 1992, to a mere handful in recent years, some of the restrictions have been lifted. The only older cattle that are still considered unsuitable for human consumption are those born prior to August 1, 1996, although all cattle over the age of 48 months are routinely tested for BSE at slaughter. Furthermore, certain Specified Risk Material (SRM), such as the spinal cord, is removed from carcasses to eliminate the risk of any potentially infected material entering the human food chain.

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