Farm Ireland

Monday 17 December 2018

Factories set to trial new beef grading technology

Digital cameras and LED lighting will be tested on carcase classification system

Stock picture
Stock picture

Martin Ryan

NEW camera and lighting technology for the grading of beef animals is to undergo testing at a number of Irish factories over the coming months, it has been confirmed.

The Department of Agriculture confirmed it was supervising the industry-led trial of the latest technological advances used in the mechanical classification system for beef.

However, the hardware infrastructure of the system will remain unchanged.

“The project will take place in the coming months and work is underway at present to prepare for it which is expected to last three weeks,” a department spokesperson said.

“The purpose of the trial is to examine the feasibility of using digital cameras and LED lights as part of the existing carcase classification system which is in place since 2003/4.”

The spokesperson said any decisions regarding adaptation of the new technology will follow an evaluation of the results of the trial.

However, no timeline for any potential change has been set at this stage.

“There are no plans to replace the present machines which are part of a robust classification system and are currently operating within the legal parameters required,” it stated.

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The trial comes as the latest figures show only two in every five steers are now making the minimum base grades of R=2+/R-4=.

The grading results compiled from the Department of Agriculture figures confirmed a continuation in the decline in the quality of both steers and heifers slaughtered at the beef export plans.

It comes ahead of a meeting of the Beef Forum where a number of key issues are expected to be discussed including the grading of animals and the future of the suckler herd.

The newly-elected ICMSA beef chair Des Morrison has called for a reform of the “outdated” grading system.

Ireland South MEP Sean Kelly has also raised the matter calling for an “overhaul” of a “complicated grading system”.

Bord Bia has already pointed out that more Hereford and Angus animals coming off the dairy herds are having an influence on the overall result.

Analysis of the steer kill figures for 2017, revealed a 38pc decline in the percentage of steers within the base grades at the factories since 2012.

One in every six animals were within the base grade in 2017 compared to one in four in 2012.

There has been no improvement in the percentage above base grades which has remained constant at one in five of the kill over the period.

Analysis of the throughput of 681,000 head in 2017 showed that 61.6pc of the total steer kill in 2017 were below the base grade compared to 52.7pc in 2012.

Heifers fared slightly better, while the number within the base grades fell from 31pc to 26pc and the percentage better than base was slightly down at 27.7pc

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