The 19 cases of non-compliant carcase trim specification revealed so far may only be the tip of the iceberg, according to the Beef Plan Movement, which is calling for farmer representatives to be allowed factory access to supervise.
The suspicion many beef farmers have, it says, is that the 19 identified non-compliant trim cases are only the tip of the iceberg.
Last year 19 carcasses were found to be non-compliant with trim regulations and now the Beef Plan Movement group is also advising farmers to request the images of cattle killed in the last six months in order to have them examined by a trained grader to establish if the trim has been non-compliant.
It also said that it is part of the Beef Plan to have farm representatives trained to the same standard as the Department graders to provide more supervision of the vital area on the kill floor between the hide puller and the scales. "This is now necessary to ensure fairness," it said in a statement.
Before Christmas, the Department of Agriculture detailed information that 19 carcasses, or 0.05pc of the carcasses inspected in 2018, and the factories where the non-compliant carcases were processed.
It also said it was introducing a new system where Veterinary Public Health Inspection Service staff will assist staff of the Beef Carcase Classification Unit to provide additional assurance in relation to the regulation of trimming of carcasses by factories has been established.
It says the additional monitoring of carcase presentation by the Department veterinary public health staff will provide further assurance to stakeholders that the appropriate dressing specification is being applied.
Last year, 1.7m carcasses have been slaughtered to December 2018. To date in 2018 there have been 521 inspections across 32 slaughter plants and 44,332 carcasses have been inspected by classification officers.
On average, each factory has been inspected 16 times to date with an average of 85 carcasses per inspection.
To date in 2018, a total of 19 on-the-spot fines were issued for non-compliance with the EU reference carcase trimming specification. Under legislation, non-compliance with the carcase trim specification attracts a maximum on the spot fine of €200 per carcase.
In 2016, 28 on-the-spot fines were issued for non-compliance with the EU reference carcase trimming specification.
The Minister also said that processors will introduce a payment to the farmer supplier to reflect any loss in each case where his Department applied a trim fine on a particular carcase.
"Such payment will be identified on the payment remittance docket, so that farmers will be aware of the penalty. In addition my Department has had a number of seminars to ensure the rules around trim are clearly understood and properly executed, and these have been well attended by plant personnel.”