By Simon Wragg

LARGE abattoirs have been persuaded to drop some carcass trimming specifications to allow farmers to compare prices between buyers and markets more easily.

The move follows pressure from the Livestock Marketing Alliance.

Removing the so-called company or private specification from larger plants, which kill over 20,000 cattle a year – and on which many other smaller abattoirs have to set prices – will improve competition between buyers, says the LMA.

Members of the alliance, which include the Livestock Auctioneers Association, beef, sheep and pig associations and farming unions, want industry to adopt just two of the four official EU trimming standards available to bring further transparency.

“That is essential,” says Norman Bagley, LMA chairman.

“There is still a 4% weight difference between the most lenient and the most stringent of these dressing standards and the majority of deadweight finishers are still confused.”

A spokesman for the British Meat Federation says its abattoir members would adopt fewer specifications if legally required, but company specification must be included to “meet customers needs”.

“Nonsense,” replies Mr Bagley. “How many large abattoirs supply supermarket customers with a whole carcasses? Absolutely none.”

Adoption of the four EU standards follows an agreement between Intervention Board and MAFF legal experts that both private and company specifications contravene European Commission regulations.

The IB – which is expected to take over enforcement of these rules from MAFF – will monitor the changeover.

The change will not affect carcass grading in Scotland, where enforcers in the Scottish Executive have insisted private and company trimming levels are illegal.