Meat processors represented by Meat Industry Ireland (MII) will begin rolling out digital cameras and LED lighting for carcass grading machines from next week, the Ibec body has said.

MII describes the rollout of these technologies as a “systems upgrade” of the existing beef carcass classification technology.

These technologies were originally trialed by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in 2018 and 2019, the results of which were published in October 2019.

The department report on the trials noted that, while the current mechanical classification of beef carcasses is operating in full compliance with EU regulations, a possible modification of more recent technologies was considered by the industry “due to a number of factors”.

The trial was carried out at Slaney Foods in Bunclody, Co. Wexford. In the summer of 2018, classification results from 2,431 carcasses were used to calibrate the new machine, while in February 2019, a further 2,100 carcasses were sampled.

In the latter sample, the modified machine had a total accuracy score of 93.3% for fat – some 7.6% higher than the 85.7% score achieved by the old machine.

For conformation on the same sample group of carcasses, the modified machine received a score of 85.2%, a slight 1.1% increase on the 84.1% score given to the regular machine.

Following the trials, the department notified the European Commission that it would authorize the rollout of the upgrades across the meat processing industry.

This was due to take place in 2020, but was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic over the last 18 months.

MII has confirmed that the rollout will instead begin in the coming week. It is due to be completed across the individual processing sites under department supervision over the next six-to-eight weeks.

MII says that this will “future-proof” the classification system “for the years ahead”.