IRISH MEAT factories have dismissed calls by farm leaders for robotic graders to be recalibrated as “premature” and “unnecessary”.

The mechanical classification machines were installed in all Irish meat plants last October in an attempt to bring increased efficiency and uniformity to the grading of slaughter cattle.

But since then they have been subject to constant criticism by farmers, who suspect their cattle are being downgraded. Irish Farmers’ Association livestock chairman John Bryan claims that farmers are being short-changed to the tune of 2m (1.4m) as a consequence.

He points to latest classification figures from the department of agriculture in Dublin. These show that the number of well-conformed U grade steers dropped from 9.3% in the last quarter of 2003, to 6.1% in the last quarter of 2004. Conversely, the number of over-lean fat-class 2 cattle increased from 5.7% to 8.3%.

“These discrepancies are very serious for farmers,” said Mr Bryan.