NBA calls for moratorium on VIA tests in abattoirs

The National Beef Association has called for “no further adoption” of video image analysis (VIA) in abattoirs after scoring errors.

Speaking at Beef Expo in Newark, NBA director Kim Haywood said the association had originally supported the idea of automated grading, but on finding errors on conformation grades, said there was no way the machines should be used until the errors were rectified.

The Livestock and Meat Commission found 10% less U grades and 8.5% more P grades under VIA than there was manually. In April 2010, exactly 22.3% of carcasses were classified U compared with 12% under VIA.

In view of this the NBA contends that about 10% of carcasses presented are being graded one full conformation class lower under VIA than they would under a manual system. “This drop in one conformation grade could equate to as much as £70 an animal,” said Ms Haywood.

VIA has currently only been adopted by some processors in Northern Ireland, but some in the UK are looking at using them. However, Ms Haywood said there was no way the machine should be allowed to be used until the pricing grid was correct.

“Examination of the problem has shown it is the VIA calibration and not the carcass dressing changes that is the principal issue.

“We are, therefore, going to be working with the processing companies to see if we can correct the issue and make them more accurate. The machines need to be re-calibrated before any commercial adoption of VIA classification in Great Britain,” she stressed.

But, according to Morrisons supply chain manager, Andrew Loftus, there is no getting away from VIA technology in the future.

“At the moment VIA grading is a hot potato, but machines don’t get it wrong, we do, so it can be corrected. Ten years from now I don’t think we will be using the EUROP grading grid and I don’t think there will be a man scoring it. We just need to get it right,” he said.

See more