BSE AFTERMATH: As Mr Baker the butcher explained, his best cut is `no longer forbidden fruit'

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The Independent Online
NOT EVERYONE was cheering the end of the ban on beef on the bone yesterday. Frank Baker, a butcher who had never removed beef from his shop window despite the ban, was scornful of the Government and supermarkets. "I'm a bit disappointed really, now that they've lifted the ban. It'll be the same old story, it's not the forbidden fruit any more is it?" said Mr Baker, a butcher for 43 years, at his north London shop.

"Meat on the bone is always better. There's an old butchers' saying, `If you can't sell it on the bone sell it in a box.' Anything can go into a box, but if you buy it on the bone you know what you're getting."

He said all the beef he sold was traceable and had a pile of tickets hanging from a hook on his shop wall to prove it. They show where in Scotland the beef came from. "BSE was never really a problem up there," he added.

Neither was he concerned about breaking the law. "What could they do to me?" he asked, handling a large joint of prime Scottish beef as one might a favoured pet. "I've had enough misery in my life, what more could they do?" Mr Baker said all types of customers, but especially those buying for their family, liked a joint of beef. He added, however, that the lifting of the ban was likely to have a negative effect on his business. "The thing that'll make things a bit more difficult now are the supermarkets. They'll be making out they're the good old boys."

Kevin Hawkins, communications director for Safeway supermarkets, said: "This isn't a very profitable line at all, but that's not the point. It's all about rebuilding confidence and doing a little bit more to help the British farmer."

The company's supermarket in Camden, north London, which has the busiest meat counter in the Safeway chain, started selling beef on the bone yesterday. Other stores are due to follow suit today.

"It's been quite clear that ever since the dispute with France arose there has been an obvious anomaly. Confidence in British beef collapsed and it's going to take a long time for it to recover, so everything and anything we can do to help we've got to do."

Mr Hawkins believed the ban was "an obscure scare about beef on the bone that, frankly, nobody took seriously, and the ban has been very inadequately enforced anyway. We haven't been selling it because, like all the other big retailers, we were good boys."