Industry calls for carcase classification review

By Gwen Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

Members of the beef and lamb industry have called for a review of the carcase classification system
Members of the beef and lamb industry have called for a review of the carcase classification system

Related tags: Meat, European union, Cattle

Challenges to carcase classification by members of the beef and lamb industry have sparked calls for views on the system by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

Members of the beef and lamb sector have questioned the importance and relevance of the EUROP grid system – currently used for carcase classification under EU regulation – in communicating consumer and retailer demands.

Some parts of the industry have expressed a desire to move to a system that rewards meat quality and is more tailored toward what consumers want. It was argued that the current system places price incentives on the wrong parameters and does not reflect market needs.

Perfect opportunity

AHDB sector strategy director for beef and lamb Laura Ryan said the UK’s departure from the EU would make a perfect opportunity to review carcase classification systems.

What is EUROP?

A common language for the exchange of price information across the EU, EUROP forms the basis of domestic cattle purchase price mechanisms, with the ‘base price’ reflecting a point on the grid and premiums/penalties paid for deviations from the base point.

Carcases are graded on a scale from E (excellent) to P (poor), and graded on visual fat from 1 (very lean) to 5 (excessively fat).

“With Brexit right around the corner, this is the perfect time to have an industry-wide discussion to assess the appetite for change in carcase classification and the key industry needs,”​ said Ryan.

“The beef and lamb sector has seen a number of changes in recent years and we want to make sure that, with a potential blank canvas in the pricing of cattle and sheep, we help industry members have the opportunity to consider factors that are important to today’s supply chains and consumers.”

The AHDB has reviewed classification methods used globally in Australia, the US, Canada, South Africa, South America and Japan as part of the project. It also consulted key stakeholders to get their views.

Number of difficulties

The EUROP system has been in place since the early 1970s and, as such, has a long history with board industry recognition and acceptance. Changing such a long-standing system could present a number of difficulties in understanding, parameters and valuation, warned the AHDB.

The organisation asked interested parties to submit their views on whether parts of EUROP should remain, as well as how and who is to manage price reporting. As full list of questions can be found in the box below.

Results of the review will be analysed in September and a consultation will be launched over the winter, should the industry strongly support a change in the system. Views need to be submitted to the AHDB via email by September 8.

Questions asked by the AHDB on carcase classification

  • Should elements of EUROP remain? If so, what?
  • Is there industry ambition to review both beef and sheep carcase evaluation?
  • What additional elements should be considered?
  • What other methods used have relevance to the UK?
  • How should we avoid multiple systems to prevent confusion in a post-EU industry?
  • What role, if any, should the Rural Payments Agency or the government play?
  • How and who is to manage pricing reporting?

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