Abattoir spot checks increase
ABATTOIRS are to face more unannounced spot checks to ensure carcass trimming specifications are not exceeded, helping to ensure farmers receive a fair price for finished stock.
Major retailers have agreed to support the enforcement of rules in problem abattoirs.
Intervention Board officials, alerted to the potential problem of excessive trimming by the Livestock Marketing Alliance, will carry out the extra inspections from next month.
Inspectors have already found examples "well beyond" the nominated dressing specification of the abattoir, says LMA chairman, Norman Bagley.
IB officials hope to carry out unannounced visits to all abattoirs killing more than 75 cattle a week at least eight times a year, confirmed a spokeswoman.
Abattoirs which over-trim will be issued with a warning and visited again to ensure changes have been made. If they fail to adhere, prosecution could follow.
The LMA will not be looking to "name and shame" offenders. Instead, retailers may be invited to LMA discussions to ensure their suppliers act fairly on behalf of producers and, ultimately, consumers.
According to Tescos Steve Murrells, category manager for meat, the retailer would welcome talks. "We may certainly stop using a supplier, depending on the severity of the problem."
The extra inspections are another step in the LMAs drive for fully transparent price comparisons, preferably using a single specification.
There are five specifications used, and the difference between them can be as much as 4%. For a 280kg carcass that could amount to £20, assuming a deadweight price of £1.80/kg.
The group, which includes support from farming unions, beef, sheep and pig national associations and the Livestock Auctioneers Association, is concerned that differing specifications make price a head comparisons between abattoirs and with auctions impossible. *