The National Beef Association (NBA) says the current definition is holding beef farmers back.
Redefining when an animal is defined as beef and not veal would be a win for farmers, consumers and the environment.
The National Beef Association (NBA) has called for a review of when an animal is classified as beef which could help boost profitability while slashing carbon emissions.
NFU livestock board chairman Richard Findlay backed the call, saying it would be a ‘win, win’.
Chris Mallon, chief executive of NBA, highlighted the industry was often accused of not competing well with the efficiency of the poultry and pork industries, but those sectors were able to finish stock sooner yet still be classified as pork or chicken.
He said: “Beef is not in this situation, as bovines are classified as veal, rather than beef, up to 12 months of age.”
Improved production systems now meant cattle were often finished before 12 months but must be held and subsequently go out of spec.
NBA suggested eight months of age would be more appropriate.
Mr Mallon added the regulation was introduced in 1968 not for consumer information but ‘to allow different rules of intervention, as calves and adult cattle received different levels of payment’.
This meant the industry was held back by outdated definitions which were designed for subsidy payments which no longer exist, he added.
The NBA said classifying it as beef from eight months of age would raise the profitability of the beef industry by millions of pounds every year, as well as producing significantly less greenhouse gas emissions per animal.
Mr Findlay added the rule was ‘stifling efficiency’, with producers being almost penalised for utilising the best genetics available.
He supported the suggestion of eight months, stating it should not then affect the rose veal industry.
“The chicken industry gains almost a day a year. I am not saying we will gain that much, but we will gain,” he said.
Mr Findlay said it ‘ticked every box’, reducing carbon footprint, using less feed and less water, and producing better eating quality.
He highlighted market trends were focusing on reducing carcase weights.
“I know quite a few guys who have bulls over 400kg and they are only 11 months old,” he added.