Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Questions (952, 954, 955, 956)

Denis Naughten

Question:

952. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine the conclusions drawn from the testing of new beef grading technology in meat plants supervised by his officials in February 2018; if the grading technology will be upgraded as a result of the testing of this new technology; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12771/19]

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Denis Naughten

Question:

954. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to Parliamentary Question Nos. 535 to 537, inclusive, of 12 February 2019, the subclass tolerance and other tolerance thresholds for mechanical grading machines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12773/19]

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Denis Naughten

Question:

955. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine further to the second Topical Issue matter of 6 March 2019 and Parliamentary Question No. 171 of 27 February 2019, if he will he review the policy of not manually regrading carcases that have already gone through the mechanical grading machines in advance of identifying a breach of the tolerances in view of the fact that farmers could be losing €140 per head due to mechanical grading errors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12774/19]

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Denis Naughten

Question:

956. Deputy Denis Naughten asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine his plans to review the complexity of the beef carcass classification scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12775/19]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 952 and 954 to 956, inclusive, together.

The rules governing Beef Carcase Classification are set down in EU legislation - (REGULATION (EU) No 1308/2013 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL). It requires slaughterhouses to take measures to ensure that all carcasses of bovine animals aged eight months or more are classified and identified in accordance with the Union scale.

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/1182 lays down the guidelines for authorisation of an automated grading method for beef. It specifies the conditions and minimum requirements for authorisation. For each validated carcass, the median of the results of the members of the jury shall be considered as the correct grade of that carcass. To estimate the performance of the automated grading method, the results of the automated grading method shall, for each validated carcass, be compared to the median of the results of the jury. The resulting accuracy of the grading by automated grading methods is established by using a system of points.

According to the legislation, the automated grading methods should achieve at least 60% accuracy for both conformation and fat cover. However, results in Ireland for classification were at much higher levels, for example, in 2018 with 91.8% accuracy for conformation and 84.8% for fat.

The legislation states that carcasses shall be classified by assessment of Conformation and Fat cover and that Member States are authorised to subdivide each of the classes into a maximum of three subclasses.

Regarding the testing of new technologies, my Department is supervising an industry-led trial which is examining the latest technology in terms of cameras and lights for use in the mechanical classification system. This trial is at an advanced stage and I intend to publish a report of the trial from an independent expert supervising the trial in due course. Subject to confirmation of effectiveness, my Department would expect the industry to move to implement this technology in due course though this is a commercial decision. My Department is satisfied that the existing system is compliant with the relevant EU Regulations.

Controls carried out by my staff are set in legislation. Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/1184 of 20 April 2017 governs the monitoring of carcase classification, carcase presentation and weighing. It specifies how on-the-spot checks shall be carried out in all slaughterhouses applying compulsory carcase classification.

According to this legislation, on-the-spot checks shall be performed in all slaughterhouses which slaughter 150 or more bovine animals per week at least twice every three months. The legislation stipulates that each on-the-spot check shall relate to at least 40 carcasses selected at random.

Authorised classification officers conduct a classification exercise on a minimum of 100 carcasses at each inspection to determine that the performance of a classification machine is within tolerance. The unannounced checks verify the on-going accuracy of the automated beef grading methods by using a system of points and limits defined in EU legislation.

Under the current system of monitoring the performance of the machine, officials check the overall performance of the carcass grading machine. The checks carried out by officials are system checks with officials looking for systematic errors rather than at individual cases.

The following revised reply was received on 9 April 2019

In my reply I stated the following: "However, results in Ireland for classification were at much higher levels, for example, in 2018 with 91.8% accuracy for conformation and 84.8% for fat." The latter figure of 84.8% is incorrect. This is a typographical error and should read 94.8%.

Question No. 953 answered with Question No. 951.
Questions Nos. 954 to 956, inclusive, answered with Question No. 952.