Farmers ‘entitled’ to carcass images before and after trim

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice is calling for farmer access to carcass photographs – before and after trimming – in a bid to stamp out “unfair” practices on factory floors.

Speaking in the aftermath of the recent controversy whereby three meat plants were found to have carried out excessive trimming on a total 19 carcasses last year – 11 at Kepak Clare; five at Emerald Isle Foods; and three at Kildare Chilling Company – the Roscommon-Galway representative is demanding that such measures be introduced.

“We need to bring in a system that at all time farmers – be they sheep, pig and on the cattle grid as well – could have a photo of their animal before and after trimmings.

Technology is gone so sophisticated now and they should be entitled to that.

Last year a total of 521 inspections were carried out across 32 slaughter plants with 44,332 carcasses inspected by classification officers within the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Also Read: CCTV in meat plant survey conducted by department

Unlike bovines and pigs there is no EU legislative requirement for processors to classify sheep carcasses – Fitzmaurice believes this is an area also in need of change.

‘Open gate’

Having submitted a parliamentary question to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, on the number of inspections carried out on adult sheep and lamb carcasses over the last two years, Fitzmaurice says he was “shocked” by the response.

Carcass classification and carcass presentation (trim) for beef, pigs and sheep is governed by EU legislation. However, compulsory classification is only applied for beef and pigs.

In response to the query, Minister Creed said: “While the five main Irish processors that slaughter sheep also classify carcasses, they do so on an entirely voluntary basis.

“No machine grading is carried out; where grading is carried out, factory operatives are involved in manual classification. There is therefore no legal basis for any statutory inspections.

My department gives guidance and training for the voluntary classification of sheep carcasses in the five factories.

In the years 2016 to 2018 there were 80 visits conducted in this regard. However, no differentiation between adult sheep and lambs is made regarding sheep classification at factory level.

According to Fitzmaurice, this situation leaves sheep farmers in a very precarious position.

“There is basically no regulation whatsoever on sheep in the line of trimming which is leaving the gate wide open in my opinion. I was actually shocked when I saw the answer,” he said.