Over 80% of sheep that have presented for slaughter to date this year were classified as category A under the clean livestock policy (CLP) and required no intervention before slaughtering, according to data from the Department of Agriculture.
There was a further 19% categorised as category B, or acceptable for slaughter with some factory intervention. This represents over half a million sheep in the national kill to date.
Just 0.41% of sheep presented for slaughtering fell into category C (unacceptable) and were unfit for slaughter without remedial action by the factory.
The CLP was introduced in late 2017 in order to comply with current EU and national food safety regulations.
In a statement to the Irish Farmers Journal, the Department said: “Sheep producers supplying animals for slaughter for human consumption are food producers and therefore have responsibilities for food safety.
“Dirty animals pose a significant risk factor in the contamination of carcases during the production process. Animals not deemed acceptable by the slaughtering plant may be sent home.”
The 0.41% of sheep falling into category C belonged to approximately 260 farmers. These 11,122 sheep were the ones at risk of being sent home.
According to the Department, there is a provision in place whereby factories are permitted to move sheep from lairage to another location “to enable them be cleaned sufficiently to allow them be slaughtered”.
A major bone of contention for farmers is the additional charges that have been attached by factories to the policy. In some cases, factories have a flat-rate charge, generally in the region of 20c to 25c, across all sheep presenting for slaughter, regardless of their category. In other factories, farmers are charged upwards of €1.50 per dirty lamb.
When it came to the pricing structure the Department said: “Any fees or charges collected by a food business operator [factory] are a commercial matter between the supplier (farmer) and the food processor.”
The data has also found no evidence of an increase in category C sheep linked to an increased use of fodder crops.
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