Abattoirs under pressure over carcass grading
By Simon Wragg
ABATTOIRS are being urged to employ independent carcass assessors to allay producers suspicions that cattle are often downgraded when beef prices rise.
Too many abattoirs still employed their own graders and that does not help price transparency, says the National Beef Associations Robert Forster. He wants to see retailers and processors back calls for change. "It is important to preserve the integrity of the industry and the deadweight pricing process. But all too often there are allegations that the impact of higher cattle prices is eased by classifiers downgrading U grades into Rs and Rs into Os."
The NBA believes only the Meat & Livestock Commissions authentication service gives an independent and impartial judgement on weight, dressing specification and classification.
"We are aware that increased in-abattoir surveillance by the Intervention Board and other outside agencies has made processors aware that grading standards can be loosely interpreted. We are pleased that within the last month at least one processor has decided to avoid potential complications by taking out a contract with MLC," said Mr Forster.
Some retailers already support their use. Asdas Brian Haigh said: "I do understand from farmers point of view they want someone independent to grade their cattle, and all our beef suppliers use MLC graders."
Some abattoirs have already taken steps. Midland Meat Packers, which supplies Sainsbury, uses an MLC grader for all its cattle. But the multiple itself does not have a specific requirement. "It is really down to the supplier," said a spokesman.
The NBA insists the beef industry would benefit if more abattoirs recognised that the use of their own staff was no longer acceptable. "It would be better for the image of the industry as a whole if the entire classification operation was given over to third party specialists," added Mr Forster. *