68% increase in the number of dirty cattle presenting for slaughter

There has been a 68% increase in the number of ‘dirty cattle’ being presented for slaughter over the past three years, according to the Department of Agriculture.

Under its Clean Livestock Policy, the Department applies a three-category system (A,B,C), requiring food business operators at slaughtering establishments to categorise cattle.

The dirtiest cattle fall under category C, where cattle are regarded as unacceptable for slaughter due to their hide condition and it is this category that has seen the 68% increase.

Over the past three years, the number of cattle categorised under C category has increased from 17,376 to 29,246, Department figures show.

Cattle defined under category C (unfit for slaughter) must not be presented for ante mortem in this condition and it is the responsibility of the FBO to take the required remedial action.

It is also the case that a small proportion of suppliers are accounting for a disproportionately high number of the dirtiest animals, it said.

Meanwhile, Category A deems cattle as satisfactory and can be slaughtered without an unacceptable risk of contaminating the meat during the slaughter process, by using the standard hygienic dressing procedures routinely employed by the plant.

Category B deems cattle as acceptable and they can only be slaughtered, without an unacceptable risk of contamination of the meat during the slaughter process, by putting in place extra defined hygienic dressing controls.

According to the Department, most cattle are classified as category A and a quarter of total slaughter numbers each year fall under category B.

Unfortunately, these current arrangements are not seen as functioning as effectively as is required, the Department has said.

The Irish climate plays a part in this, but it is generally accepted also that some operators could make a much better effort in this area.

It says that an effective Clean Livestock Policy is very important not just in terms of basic food safety but also as a reputational issue for Ireland’s meat industry and to safeguard our ongoing major export trade in meat and hides.

A Clean Livestock Policy for Sheep

Meanwhile, based on a recent evaluation by the Department of sheep carcase hygiene in slaughter plants, it said that is clear that there is a need to significantly improve performance in relation to the cleanliness of incoming animals, to ensure the continuation and expansion of this trade.

Accordingly it is intended to introduce a formal Clean Livestock Policy for sheep shortly, and work in that regard has commenced.

It is intended that the sheep CLP will be broadly similar to the bovine equivalent, it said.