Farm Ireland

Monday 20 November 2017

Concern as Dept finds mistakes in grading

Martin Ryan

More than 250,000 cattle were wrongly graded in slaughter plants last year, a major Department of Agriculture investigation has found.

According to information released by the Department, close to 5,000 animals per week slaughtered at the country's 25 export meat plants were given an incorrect classification grade during 2009.

The cattle were graded by the mechanical system in operation at the plants, with payment based on the grade allocated to the carcass.

However, the Department study has now confirmed that the machines are incapable of delivering 100pc accuracy.

A total of 415 inspections were carried out at the meat factories in 2009, with 41,034 graded carcasses being rechecked.

As discrepancies were found on 9pc of the sample, this suggests that 262,000 animals were incorrectly graded last year.

Problems were found in both the conformation and fat scores of the carcasses. More than 9pc were found to have been allocated an incorrect conformation grade, with 9pc also being given an incorrect fat score.

In total, close to one in five animals slaughtered had an incorrect conformation or fat score grade allocated.

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There is no indication that blame is attaching to the factories for the discrepancies identified as the mechanical grading machines being used are automated.


Similarly, it is not clear whether the grades allocated to the carcass were better or worse than the correct grade.

No information is available to-date for checks carried out in 2010 as data is only released by the Department of Agriculture on an annual basis.

Concern over grading has heightened among beef producers following the introduction of the quality payment system (QPS) for cattle.

The new payment grid has a far greater number of finely divided grades, with price differentials included to reward quality stock.

The introduction of the grid has met with significant farmer opposition, with many cattle finishers complaining that it is too complicated.

Irish Independent