Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue has said that Department officials have reported one case in 2021 where a mechanical carcase grading machine was found to have been operating under the authorised accuracy threshold.

The Minister issued the response to a written question posed by Independent TD Denis Naughten regarding the number of instances where carcase grading machines had failed to meet the accuracy requirements stipulated in EU legislation.

“To date in 2021, mechanical classification was suspended on one occasion following an inspection by classification officers,” the Minister stated.

“Using a system of points and limits defined in the EU legislation, a mechanical classification system must achieve an accuracy figure in excess of 60% for conformation and fat cover in order for it to be authorised for use in any EU state,” he said.

Once a machine has been found to have graded under this threshold, it must be taken out of operation and serviced.

Impact of restrictions

The number of inspections that have taken place since the onset of COVID-19 restrictions have been limited, according to the Minister.

A 30% drop in carcase classification inspections was recorded from 2019 to 2020.

“In each of the past five years, including 2021 to date, the average number of inspections per factory was 18, with an average of 85 carcasses inspected at each inspection,” the Minister stated.

“The number of inspections in 2020 was reduced because of COVID-19 restrictions, but continued to exceed the number required by legislation.

“In 2020, during 314 checks, across the 22 mechanical grading factories, the average performance for conformation in 2020 was 93.3% and 95.6% for fat cover,” he confirmed.

Minister McConalogue declared that 2,911 inspections have been carried out by Department officials over the past five years across 32 factories classifying carcasses by automated machines.