Breeding societies back calls to scrap beef grading system
Ireland's leading cattle breeding societies have backed calls for a debate on the phasing out of the current grading system in factories and the introduction of payment based on meat yield.
Irish Charolais Cattle Society president Kevin McGuire told the Farming Independent that the current factory grading system needs to be updated so that suckler farmers are rewarded for quality. He cited the Australian system of paying by meat yield as one that Ireland should adopt.
"The system needs to be upgraded. The system in Australia is very accurate and I'd be in favour of moving toward something like that as it shows the exact meat yield," he said.
"Suckler farmers are not getting properly paid and they need to be supported and paid for quality. There's a lot of talk of the quality, heavy beef in Ireland that's fed naturally and reared with its mother.
"The dairy breed is artificial as far as I'm concerned. Something needs to be done so this breed survives."
Mr McGuire thinks that beef in Ireland is going the wrong way and that factories are taking lower-graded "O and P animals".
Irish Limousin Society secretary Paul Sykes echoed Mr McGuire's views.
"It makes sense that farmers are paid based on quality. We would be in favour of paying by yield. It's certainly fairer and ensures that a premium price is paid for a premium product.
"It's top-quality product but it's suffering at the moment and there's less numbers of suckler farmers coming to the ring as a result.
"It's the backbone of marginal land in the west, and it's good that we debate about it."
President of the Irish Angus Society John Farrell feels that eating quality combined with meat yield should be taken in to account if a new system is to be implemented.
"Angus meat is concerned with quality and we would like if the farmer was rewarded for eating quality as well as meat yield. The current system is quite outdated. Between the weather and everything, suckler farming is not sustainable at the moment in the west of Ireland, so something needs to be done," he explained.
On the other hand, Irish Hereford Breeding Society secretary Larry Feeney doesn't think that meat yield necessarily equates to a quality product but would be in favour of a less complicated grading system in factories.
"Yield alone is not a measure of quality. At the end of the day it's customer-based. It's the customer who purchases the product. It's a 450g pack of steak and if the animal is too big, it won't fit and nobody wants a steak cut in half," said Mr Feeney.
"I'd welcome a less complicated system. The one there is very hard for farmers to understand especially smaller farmers who may not be sending enough animals to slaughter."
Moving to a meat-yield system of paying for cattle would mean that current analogue factory grading technology would have to be replaced with digital equipment that could accurately calculate the lean meat of carcases.
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