Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 21 April 2019

Factories' 'cold' weight measures cutting €25/hd from beef prices

Martin Ryan

An adjustment in carcase weights being applied on cattle at the factories, which it is claimed is no longer justified, could be costing in excess of €750,000 per week in lower returns, livestock farmers have been advised.

David Donnelly, head of beef classification at the Department of Agriculture, has advised farmers to engage with the beef processing factories for 'hot' weight on carcases to be applied.

"Cold weights are not 2pc less (than hot) any more and I can't understand why a 2pc reduction is allowed at the moment. Why don't you get agreement on hot weight?" he told farmers at an IFA regional meeting on beef classification and monitoring of grading and weights at the factories.

On a typical carcase, the 'hot' weight could add around €25/head to producer returns. There was a total kill of 1.75 million head of steers, heifers, young bulls and cows, adding up to €44m per annum.

ICSA beef chair Edmund Graham described the standard 2pc deduction on payments based on cold weight as overkill. "It is based on outdated metrics. It is a particularly unfair cut on prime high quality carcasses which do not lose 2pc on cooling," he said.

Mr Donnelly said that testing is continuing to progress on the replacement of the grading machines at the factories, but "we will never be able to achieve 100pc accuracy in mechanical grading".

However, monitoring by the Department of Agriculture to ensure that the machines operate within the legal tolerance has been increased.

He said that five officials of the Department are now assigned to monitoring, with responsibility for eight or nine factories each, and 100 carcases are checked in the chills every two weeks.

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Where discrepancies are identified, the equipment is tested, but the supplier of the animals on which the discrepancy in grading is identified is not notified by the Department.

It is not possible to have a carcase regraded at the factory, but he insisted that the mechanical process of grading is such that it should deliver results within the legal latitude, but agreed that there are some exceptions as had been found in relation to some categories of animals.

Images

Mr Donnelly said the images taken by the mechanical graders are retained for several years but "nobody can tell from the machine image the specific grade of a carcase" and felt that farmers should have the right to see their animals graded and weighed.

He said it is not possible for factories to comply with the strict legal regulation on carcase trim, but the monitoring targets to ensure that the trim is not excessive.

IFA livestock chair Angus Woods said "the key is accuracy, and tolerance is too wide" to be acceptable because the industry needs technology that can be relied upon for accuracy.

"We expect all animals to be accurately graded. It should be possible to tighten up that, and the key is to have permanent staff in each factory to monitor, and an independent appeal system," he said.

Department official insists 2pc adjustment is no longer justified

Indo Farming