23 - 30 May, 2001
Butchers are questioning whether there is a case of double standards being adopted at the abattoir in the policy of meat selection.
There was a wave of protest from the Meatsellers Association a few weeks back when a decision was made at the abattoir preventing butchers entering the premises to select their pork.
But the associations secretary, Carmel Dalli, told The Business Times that it had always been assumed among the meatsellers that the move was a temporary measure during the foot-and-mouth scare in the UK.
"But now we have been informed that the intention is for the ruling to stay in place on a long-term basis, which gives us great cause for concern," Mr Dalli said. "We are not at all happy about being unable to choose our own pork for our customers and if this is not a short-term measure, as we had presumed, then we want to discuss the matter further."
One issue that has particularly irked the meatsellers is the fact that the ruling is not being applied to beef, only pork.
"We are being allowed to enter the abattoir to select the cuts of beef, but not pork, which seems strange if the authorities are concerned about the risk factor of us entering the premises," Mr Dalli said. "Obviously this has raised eyebrows among some of our members, especially since it is well-known that sales of beef took a nosedive during the BSE crisis. Some people are even asking whether there is something to hide at the abattoir."
On the subject of the BSE scare, Mr Dalli, stressed that beef sales were improving all the time, and had now reached 75-80% of what they were before the issue hit the headlines in January.
At their lowest, sales of beef were even reported in some butchers to have dropped to zero.
Mr Dalli believes that confidence has now been restored to the consumer, because of the provision of objective information which has helped balance some of the sensational headlines on the issue.
"The fact that the authorities now have equipment to test for BSE has also helped," he added. "There was some public concern previously when it emerged that we didnt have this equipment."
On the positive side, Mr Dalli said that the crisis has helped to strengthen good relations between customers and their butchers.
"I believe many people have turned to their butcher in the wake of the scare, because they want personal reassurance about what they are buying and we are able to give that," he said. "Perhaps people found that they were not getting that one-to-one reassurance when buying meat at large supermarkets."