The German beef industry fears that it is on the verge of ruin as consumer demand plummeted in recent days following the discovery of two BSE cases in domestically reared cattle. Major meat processors Nordfleisch and Moksel have already slashed the working hours of many of their staff as beef sales fell by between 20% and 30%.

An initial consumer survey revealed that 30% of respondents were already boycotting beef, with this number expected to rise and a further tranche of consumers being increasingly selective about the cuts they buy. German finance minister Hans Eichel told the press that he too would be boycotting beef in the coming weeks.

It is felt that his government colleague Karl-Heinz Funke, the agriculture minister, has lost a great deal of credibility over the issue and there are mounting calls for his resignation. Indeed, he has demonstrated almost vertiginous turnaround from his previously staunch advocacy of the safety of beef and his is now one of the strongest calls for an immediate EU-wide ban on meat-based food and bone meal.

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