EFRA Committee: Beef grading prices

On Wednesday 14 September 2016, I attended the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee meeting on Beef Grading Prices.


The Committee heard from the following witnesses: Steve Conisbee, Beef Group Chair, National Farmers’ Union, Dr Phil Hadley, Head of Global Supply Chain Development, Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and Chris Mallon, Chief Executive, National Beef Association.


The principal aim of the EU beef carcase classification scheme is to ensure a common standard for the description of beef carcases throughout the EU. As you can see in the picture, carcasses are classified for conformation and fat cover. Conformation assesses the shape and muscle development of the carcase (E being the best grading) while fat cover is assessed and graded numerically from 1-5. This conformation and fat class is then combined to produce the grade.

There are two main ways of grading the beef. One is by the digital process of Video Image Analysis and the other is by an MLG grader who is a licensed person, either employed by the plant or an independent company such as Meat and Livestock Commercial Services Ltd. However some farmers are concerned that the digital process does not give them the opportunity to appeal from the result. One of the witnesses operates uses both the processes but was unable to tell the Committee when I asked him for the advantages and disadvantages for both the processes.