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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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1 beef-grading machine shut down after unannounced inspection

In the past five years, officers from the Carcase Classification Division of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has conducted 2,911 inspections of beef-grading machines across 32 factories.

That is according to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, who made the revelation in response to a parliamentary question from Roscommon-Galway independent TD, Denis Naughten.

Minister McConalogue stated that the average number of inspections “significantly exceed “the requirement under the relevant EU legislation.

He outlined that the EU legal requirement for monitoring classification is a minimum of eight inspections per factory per year. The minister added it must also include a minimum of 40 carcasses at each inspection.

“In each of the past five years, including 2021 to date, the average number of inspections per factory was 18 with an average of 85 carcasses inspected at each inspection.”

He said the DAFM reduced the number of inspections in 2020 because of COVID-19 restrictions but continued to exceed the number required by legislation.

“Unannounced checks by classification officers verify the ongoing accuracy of the automated beef grading methods by using a system of points and limits defined in EU legislation.”

Also, he highlighted that the mechanical classification method must operate within legally defined tolerances at all times.

“As with any mechanical system, grading machines can from time to time fall out of tolerance.”

To note, to date, in 2021, classification officers suspended mechanical classification on one occasion following an inspection.

When beef-grading machines are suspended 

“Where a machine is found operating outside of tolerance, the factory is instructed to cease mechanical classification.”

“When any mechanical system is found to be working outside of these tolerances, the meat plants concerned are instructed to revert to manual grading.”

In this scenario, he added, the factory must arrange for the classification machine to be serviced.

When this service is completed, the classification section is notified. Then, classification officers will conduct a further classification exercise (min 100 carcasses) to confirm that it is working within the legal tolerances before mechanical grading is allowed to recommence.

“Farmers are advised through their remittance dockets where manual grading is applied.”

Beef-grading machine inspections 

The minister provided the following data to deputy Naughten:

Year Number of inspections Number of instances where a machine was turned off following an inspection by the Department of Agriculture
2016 616 10
2017 628 13
2018 550 8
2019 580 6
2020 405 4
2021 to date 132 1


Update on beef prices 

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