Mechanical grading has been suspended in meat factories on four occasions to date in 2020 by the Department of Agriculture. One factory has also been fined for non-compliance with carcase presentation.

The minimum accuracy figure for conformation and fat cover that must be achieved for a mechanical classification system to be authorised for use in any EU state is 60%.

The average performance for conformation in Ireland to date in 2020 is 93.3% for conformation and 95.6% for fat cover.

Factories in questions were instructed to revert to manual grading until a classification check was carried out by Department officials before mechanical grading could recommence.

No appeals

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue highlighted that legislation currently does not provide for any appeal mechanism in relation to the classification of carcases by mechanical methods.

The information came to light following a parliamentary question put forward by Roscommon-Galway Independent TD Denis Naughten.

To date in 2020, the Department carcase classification division has conducted 405 inspections across 32 factories, with over 36,000 carcases inspected.

There were 302 inspections in factories where mechanical classification is carried out and 103 inspections in the nine manual grading factories.

Remittance dockets

The mechanical classification method is legally obliged to operate within legally defined tolerances at all times.

Minister McConalogue said: “These unannounced checks by classification officers verify the ongoing accuracy of the automated beef grading methods by using a system of points and limits defined in EU legislation.

“When any mechanical system is found to be working outside of these tolerances, the plants concerned are instructed to revert to manual grading. Farmers are advised through their remittance dockets where manual grading is applied.”

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Farmers unsettled by suspension of mechanical grading - ICMSA

Machine grading of carcases suspended at two factories in 2020