19 April 2002

High cost of spec failure

LARGE numbers of cattle fail to meet basic slaughter specification, generating huge waste and cost in the production chain, according to Donald Brown, Keenan beef specialist.

Mr Brown said 55% of Scottish beef production failed to make the basic specification of R4L or leaner with 30% too fat, 20% failing on conformation and 5% a combination of both. The vast majority of processors are looking for weights of 280-380kg, but less than 70% of UK production achieves that target.

Analysis of cattle records by one processor revealed a random finished animal, sold for £600, changed hands seven times during its lifetime.

A total of £192 was spent on commission and transport through auction markets, he said.

Keenan Kepak Beef Club members in Ireland show it is possible to consistently meet tight specifications. Of 250 suppliers producing heifers for the Italian export market 87%, 35,000 carcasses, manage to hit the specification for 240-320kg carcass weight at 20 months maximum.