Beef is now firmly back on the menu at most British restaurants, despite continuing doubts about its safety in some circles.
The reasons people are eating more beef again are strangely complex: for some it is out of a sense of patriotism; for others it is a backlash against all the media hype; for a few it appears to be fuelled by anti-European Union (EU) sentiment. But for most consumers the reason is simple: they enjoy eating beef when they go out for a meal.
Some restaurateurs and hoteliers are making the most of these sentiments by setting up special beef promotions. For example, Scottish Highland Hotels is holding a week-long British Beef Festival at its six hotels in June.
The company's marketing director, Franco Galgagni, said he felt British beef had been given an unfair roasting in Europe. "It is time to fly the flag," he said. "As an Italian it is my way to expiate Continental guilt."
It is hoped, the hotels' customers will agree and the promotion will be a success. Scotland has been particularly badly hit by the BSE crisis because beef production is an important contributor to the rural economy. It is also sad because Scotch beef has, until recently, had an enviable worldwide reputation for quality.
Unfortunately, the Government's contribution to the efforts to restore confidence in British beef has been shambolic. First, the Government announced that 40,000 older cattle would be destroyed in an attempt to get the export ban lifted and restore confidence.
When the EU refused to lift the ban, the Government then offered to slaughter 80,000 cattle, a process that has now begun. This was still deemed to be unacceptable by the EU and beef has now taken centre stage in the battle between Euro-sceptics and Euro-enthusiasts.
It is very odd that last month it was apparently necessary to slaughter 40,000 cattle and this month 80,000. But to protect the long-term market for beef some urgent steps need to be taken.
For example, feed manufacturers still don't have to declare what goes into animal feed, which can still include chicken offal and manure. This is an astonishing situation when it is almost certain that contaminated animal feed was the source of BSE in cattle.
In addition, there is no national scheme in place to assure buyers of beef of its source and quality. Action on these two points would do far more to restore confidence than the embarrassing political manoeuvring we have had to endure in the past few weeks.
Caterer & Hotelkeeper