Old & New Legislation

The Agriculture Fresh Meat Act regulates the production of fresh meat, provides for the registration of slaughterhouses and the preparation and packaging of fresh meat, examination and certification of compliance and other related matters.  The legislation is part of a group of pieces of legislation introduced in the early years of the State.

The legislation has been modernised and, to some extent, eclipsed by modern EU-based food safety law.  However, the basic regulations are still in place.  Many premises will have to license under the Agriculture Produce Fresh Meat Acts and under European Union fresh meat regulations.


The Acts provide for the following registers:

  • Register of cattle slaughtering premises;
  • Register of pig slaughtering premises;
  • Register of sheep slaughtering premises;
  • Register of horse slaughtering premises;
  • Register of goat slaughtering premises;
  • Register of crating

Each register must contain details of the name and description of the owner, a description of the premises sufficient to identify it.  A single premises may be registered in any of the registers provided that a register of horse slaughtering premises and crating premises may not otherwise be registered nor may a register of horse slaughtering or crating premises be capable of being registered in any other register.

A person may not, other than with a licence under the Act, prepare for sale for human consumption meat intended to be sold in a barrel, jar or other container or the business of manufacturing or preparing for sale for human consumption any essence, extract or preparations derived solely from meat or both of those businesses. A person may be granted a manufacturing licence to do such things as are specified in the licence.  There is a provision for revocation of the licence, etc.


Before registration is permitted, the Department of Agriculture must be satisfied that the premises meet certain conditions in relation to cleanliness and suitability, including:

  • That the equipment, fixtures and appliances are in a state of cleanliness and in good repair;
  • That the premises are in a position to prevent exposure of meat and offal to any effluvium or contamination;
  • That the premises are provided with adequate facilities for the disposal of blood waste and washings;
  • That there is an adequate supply of wholesome water on the premises;
  • That adequate facilities are available for veterinary examination, post-mortem and ante-mortem;
  • That lock-up accommodation is provided for or a certificate for marked records and equipment;
  • That adequate facilities are available for penning and resting of animals prior to slaughter.

The Department is outside the premises are structurally suitable for the business for which they are registered they are properly equipped with plant and equipment prescribed and there are employed on such premises persons skilled in the slaughtering of animals of the requisite type.

The application is in the format prescribed under the Act, and fees are payable. Where the person carrying on business is not the owner of the premises but has some lease or license to such effect may register a licensee.


Regulations may be made regarding the condition of meat at times of export.  Regulations may be made regarding the packing of fresh meat, including in relation to packing materials, cleaning and sterilising of materials and packaging, and weight limitations.

Regulations may be made regarding the transport and conveyance of fresh meat.  This includes the suitability of ventilation of vehicles, ships, etc.

The Department appoints veterinary examiners for the purpose of the legislation.  Each must be a qualified veterinary surgeon.

Veterinary Examiners

Veterinary examiners may be allocated to particular premises, and regulations may be made in relation to the method of post-mortem and ante-mortem examinations. diseases and conditions which prohibit certification, method manner of veterinary examination of carcasses and offals.

The veterinary examiner may apply the fresh meat mark in the manner prescribed by the regulations only if the requisite conditions are met.  In particular, the animal must be examined in accordance with veterinary examination regulations, must be slaughtered in accordance with legislation, the carcass must be opened and disembowelled in his presence.

If meat is found to be unfit for human consumption, it must be disposed of.

Veterinary examiners must notify the Department of diseases. A veterinary officer of the health authority may act as a veterinary examiner.

Returns & Records

Returns must be made by registered proprietors and licences.  The forms of return are prescribed by regulation.

Records must be kept on the premises as prescribed in relation to all consignments of fresh meat or offals within 12 hours of dispatch of any such consignment.  It is the duty of any licensed exporter who is not the registered proprietor to ensure that such records as are prescribed are kept on the premises.  All records may be inspected on demand by a Department inspector.  Failure to keep the requisite records or produce them or inadequately maintain them is an offence.

Registers under the Act may be published by the Department.  Notice of cancellation, alteration or conviction is entered.  The Department may make and collate statistical information.


Inspectors, veterinary inspectors and examiners are entitled, subject to proof of authority, to enter the premises to inspect all equipment to order to ensure compliance with legislation.  Any inspector, veterinary inspector or examiner has a duty to report breaches of conditions and suitability to be the Department.  Similar provisions apply to the Health Authority.

Notices may be served to require the premises to be cleaned, repaired, structural alterations provided with equipment, improved, take remedial action.

The notice is delivered to the premises.  If it does not comply, the addressee is guilty of an offence on a continuing daily basis.

Where a notice is served and the registered party is not the owner, the notice must be passed to the owner.  The registered person may undertake the works notwithstanding any restriction in its lease, tenancy etc in relation to the works concerned. Persons may not be employed on premises if they suffer from diseases specified in regulations.


Inspectors may have access to the interior of the premises of any of the following:

  • Registered premises;
  • Premises engaged in the business of carrying goods for reward;
  • Warehouses;
  • Piers, docks, jetties;
  • Ships, boats, railways, vessels for conveyance.

An inspector may inspect fresh meat, poultry and any package which he believes may reasonably contain the same.  He may take samples.  Any obstruction, misleading details, etc. is an offence.  The powers of Customs and Excise apply in respect of each such article. The legislation makes it an offence to possess or misuse certifications, marks, etc.

The department may make regulations classifying fresh meat for one or more kinds of animal.  It may prescribe standards of description and could prescribe marks for each standard.

The regulations of specified persons responsible for classifying meats and prescribing marks.

Cancelling Registration

There are provisions for registration and cancellation of registration.  Termination of registration may occur when a business terminates or becomes insolvent, and an owner dies, is bankrupt or if the legislation conditions are no longer complied with.

Before altering or cancelling a registration other than one applied, the Department must give 14 days’ notice of intention.  Persons concerned may make representations and, if the Minister thinks fit, cause an enquiry in relation to the matter.

The Department may make regulations in relation to the manner of slaughtering, times of slaughtering, manner of dressing, hanging, cooling and weighing fresh meat, and preservatives. Regulations may be made in relation to markings to be applied to fresh meat and offals, examined and certified by a veterinary examiner on premises indicating all or any of:

  • Confirming examination and certification;
  • Specifying the premises;
  • Specifying the owner;
  • Specifying prepared in the Republic of Ireland;
  • Such other matter as may be specified.

Former Export Legilsatoin

The Act, as enacted, provided export licences in respect of different classes of meat.  Separate fees were payable on export licence applications.

There are provisions regarding revocation of export licences for various reasons, including cessation of the registration of the premises, debt, bankruptcy, dissolution or breach of the Act or regulations under it.  Notice of revocation must be given and an opportunity must be given for representations.

Licensed exporters may be assigned a distinctive mark.  Application of a mark other than in accordance with the legislation is deemed to be a false trademark under consumer protection legislation.

Export Requirements

There are provisions in relation to the export of fresh meat and offals.  They must be accompanied by a consignment certificate, comply with the requisite conditions, have the requisite marks, be transported in accordance with the relevant regulations.

Beef and veal exported must comply with the conditions of export, including that it is prepared and packaged in a registered premises in accordance with the relevant regulations.

Various other conditions apply in respect of exports of a particular meat, including in particular that it had been prepared and packed in a relevant registered premises in accordance with regulations and shall be exported and dispatched directly from it.  In particular, it is required that is exported by a person with an exporters licence granted in respect of such premises.

There are certain exemptions in relation to consignments below certain weights.

Regulations may be made prohibiting the export of carcasses within certain minimum limits and weights.  Provisions may be made prohibiting exports of certain kinds of fresh meat.

Special licences may be granted to export fresh meat by such route and subject to such conditions as specified.

Regulations may be made regarding the export of dead rabbits and poultry.


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Draft Articles; The articles on this website are in draft form and are subject to further review for typographical errors and, in some cases, updating and correction. It is intended to include references to the sources of materials and acknowledgements in the final version. The content of articles with [EU] in the title and some of the articles in the section on Agriculture are a reproduction of or are based on European or Irish public sector information.

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