EU Beef Carcase Classiﬁcation Scheme
The aim of the Beef Carcase Classiﬁcation Scheme is to ensure a common classiﬁcation standard throughout the European Union. This enables the EU to operate a standardised beef price reporting system. From late 2004, most beef carcases are classiﬁed by mechanical means. Department licensed factory employees classify the balance.
The criteria for classifying are as follows:
• Conformation (the shape and development of the carcase): is denoted by the letters E, U, R, O, P with E being the best and P the poorest;
• Fat: the degree of fat is denoted by the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 in order of increasing fatness;
• Sex category: denoted by the letters A (young bull), B (bull), C (steer), D (cow), E (heifer) and Z (Veal >8 Months).
Classiﬁcation information is returned to the supplier by the slaughter plant. Over 90% of carcases are classiﬁed by machine. Machine classiﬁcation makes use of Video Image Analysis to carry out various measurements of the carcase. As the determination of classiﬁcation in this case is objective, no appeal is possible. In smaller plants, classiﬁcation is carried out by factory employees who have been licensed by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. In these cases, the supplier can appeal the decision of the classiﬁer to the slaughter plant.
Labelling of beef
Beef Labelling is covered under EU Regulations 1760/2000 and 1825/2000 as amended by Regulations 653/2014 and 275/2007 respectively. National Legislation covers the enforcement of these regulations, S.I. No. 435 of 2000 as amended by S. I. No. 485 of 2002.
Under these regulations, operators and organisations involved in the marketing of beef must label beef so as to provide consumers with the following information:
• A reference number or reference code permitting the identiﬁcation of the animal or group of animals from which the beef was derived;
• The approval number and country of the slaughterhouse – the indication should read: ‘Slaughtered in (name of the Member State or third country) (approval number)’;
• The approval number and country of the de-boning hall – the indication should read: ‘Cutting in; (name of the Member State or third country) (approval number)’;
• The Member State or third country where the animal was born, fattened and slaughtered (Origin).
Regulations were introduced in 2006, which extended beef labelling laws to the restaurant and catering sectors. The Health (Country of Origin of Beef) Regulations 2006 (S.I. No. 307 of 2006), require that a food business operator providing prepared beef to consumers shall not (a) advertise beef for sale or supply, (b) present it for sale or supply, or (c) sell or supply it unless the country or countries of origin of the beef is indicated at the point of advertising, presenting, sale and supply in clear legible type on the advertisement, menu or other presentation used. The Regulations are enforced by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.
Country of Origin Labelling (Other Meats)
Since 1 April 2015 it is a legal requirement that Food Business Operators (FBOs) comply with EU Regulation 1337/2013. This means that country of origin labelling is required for pre- packed meat of swine, sheep, goats and poultry supplied to the ﬁnal consumer or mass caterer. S. I. No. 113 of 2015 gave eﬀect to the Regulation and provides for enforcement procedures and penalties.
The Regulation covers pre-packed non-processed meat, which includes fresh, chilled or frozen carcases, whole birds and cuts of these meats (e.g. chicken breasts, lamb cutlets). It does not cover ‘cured meats’ (bacon/rashers/sausages) or meat products that have been further processed (for example, chicken kievs) or products that contain meat as an ingredient (e.g. lasagne).
Any meat that is presented to the consumer already packaged must comply with the origin labelling requirements as set down in the regulation. However, there is an exemption for meat which is packed on the sales premises at the customer’s request or pre-packed for direct sale from the premises. These are not considered ‘pre-packed’ under EU labelling legislation and are not required to display origin information.
This Regulation does not currently cover non pre-packed or ‘loose’ product e.g. sold at a butchers counter. However the Department is liaising with the Department of Health to bring in national legislation to bring meat sold in this fashion into line with Regulation 1337/2013.
This Regulation does not include prepared meat and therefore there is no mandatory requirement, under this legislation, for premises who serve any of the meats covered by the legislation to display country of origin information. Please note that national rules have been in place since 2006 requiring origin information to be displayed for prepared beef served in these types of premises in Ireland.
A label must indicate the name of the Member State or third country (i.e. country outside the EU) where the animal was reared and slaughtered. If, however, the animal was born, reared and slaughtered in the one Member State or third country, and the FBO can prove this to the competent authority, then the label may state ‘Origin: (name of Member State or third country). The speciﬁc labelling requirements for each animal species are set out in Regulation 1337/2013. The Regulation includes a derogation for minced meat and trimmings which allows FBOs to deviate, if they wish, from the requirements for Member States or third countries to be speciﬁed. For example, ‘Origin: EU’ may be used when the minced meat comes from animals born, reared and slaughtered in diﬀerent EU Member States or ‘Reared and slaughtered in: non-EU’.
Lamb Carcase Classiﬁcation
Regulation (EU) no 1308/2013 lays down detailed rules on the voluntary implementation of the Community scales for the classiﬁcation of beef, pig and sheep carcases and the reporting of prices thereof.
Lamb carcases are classiﬁed by assessment of:
• Conformation (the shape and muscle development of the carcase), denoted by the letters E, U, R, O, P with E being the best and P the poorest;
• Fat: the degree of fat, denoted by the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 in order of increasing fatness.
A lamb carcase classiﬁcation scheme in accordance with the EU grid is in voluntary operation in the vast majority of export approved lamb slaughter plants.
Pig Carcase Grading
Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 lays down detailed rules on the EU system of grading pig carcases. All pig slaughter plants, where, on average over the course of a year, more than 200 pigs are killed per week, must grade pig carcases in accordance with their lean meat content. Grading must be carried out in accordance with one of the methods approved by the EU Commission for use in Ireland.
The purpose of the grading system is to facilitate transparency in the area of pricing and to assist fair payment based on carcase quality. The operator of a slaughter plant must give to pig suppliers a statement showing, in respect of each pig, the carcase number, carcase weight, estimated percentage lean meat content and the total price paid.
Pig Salmonella Control Scheme
The purpose of this programme is to reduce any possible risk of public health problems arising from the consumption of pork and pigmeat products. A new programme commenced on 1 January 2010 which covers all aspects of the food chain. Under the revised programme, underpinned by the Diseases of Animals Act 1966 (Control of salmonella in swine) Order 2009, all pig producers supplying more than 200 pigs for slaughter in the previous 12 months must have an on- farm salmonella control plan in place and must establish a salmonella prevalence for their herd. Additional measures apply for breeding herds.
Further information on the above services can be obtained from:
• Meat and Milk Policy Division, Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Kildare Street, Dublin 2, D02 WK12 • Tel: 01 6072263
Clean Livestock Policy
The Hygiene Package, which came into force in all European Union Member States on 1 January 2006, provides the following in relation to cleanliness of livestock being presented for slaughter:
Regulation (EC) No. 852/2004
Food business operators rearing animals or producing primary products of animal origin are to take adequate measures, as appropriate and as far as possible to ensure the cleanliness of animals going to slaughter and, where necessary, production animals. Regulation (EC) No. 853/2004
Food business operators operating slaughterhouses must have HACCP-based intake procedures to guarantee that each animal or, where appropriate, each lot of animals accepted onto the slaughterhouse premises is clean. In the event of failure to comply with any of the requirements the food business operator must notify the oﬃcial veterinarian and take appropriate measures.
Regulation (EC) No. 854/2004
The oﬃcial veterinarian is to verify compliance with the food business operators’ duty under Regulation (EC) No 853/2004; to ensure that animals that have such hide conditions that there is an unacceptable risk of contamination of the meat during slaughter are not slaughtered for human consumption unless they are cleaned beforehand.
The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine requires food business operators at slaughtering establishments to categorise as follows:
• Cattle that can be slaughtered, without an unacceptable risk of contaminating the meat during the slaughter process by using the standard hygienic dressing procedures routinely employed by the plant;
• Cattle that can only be slaughtered without an unacceptable risk of contamination of the meat during the slaughter process, by putting in place extra deﬁned hygienic dressing controls;
• Cattle unﬁt for slaughter because of hide condition. These cattle must not be presented for ante mortem and it is the responsibility of the Food Business Operator (FBO) to take the required remedial action with regard to these cattle.
The Department has also actively publicised the requirements for primary producers to ensure that animals being sent for slaughter are clean as well as guidance in that regard. This approach has included publication of articles in the farming press, information leaﬂets and mail shots to producers who may have supplied animals that were categorised as less than fully compliant with the required level of cleanliness.
Meat Hygiene Legislation
The European Community’s food and feed hygiene legislation (The Hygiene Package) came into eﬀect across all Member States from 1 January 2006. The Hygiene Package revises and consolidates legislation in relation to food and feed hygiene along with the production, control and marketing of products of animal origin and animal health issues in relation to the production of those products.
The Hygiene Package was motivated by the necessity to ensure high levels of public health protection in relation to food production. The package also simpliﬁes the range of complicated and often overlapping legislation that had evolved in this area over the past 30 or so years. The underlying philosophy is that food producers should bear full responsibility for the safety of the food they produce.
The Hygiene Package was given further eﬀect in Irish law by the European Communities (Food and Feed Hygiene) Regulations 2005 (S.I. No. 910 of 2005). These regulations have been updated and replaced by the European Communities (Food and Feed Hygiene) Regulations 2009 (S.I. No. 432 of 2009).
The regulations require food business operators that are primary producers of food products to apply for registration and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is a registering authority for this purpose.
Approval of Meat Establishments
A food business operator, who wishes to carry out an activity that requires approval, should apply to the appropriate registering authority. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is the registering authority for high-throughput establishments. Before an establishment can use an identiﬁcation mark on any of its product, it must be approved by a registering authority.
The Department’s Veterinary Public Health Inspection Service (VPHIS) supervises high throughput establishments engaged in the slaughter of animals and the processing of meat products, minced meat and meat preparations. VPHIS carries out inspections of applicant establishments in order to verify the compliance of the Food Business Operator (FBO) with the hygiene legislation before recommending approval by the Department. These very detailed Hygiene Package inspections are carried out in addition to the regular public health monitoring and inspections that are a daily part of the remit of the VPHIS.
Poultry and Eggs
Poultry Hatcheries and Hatching Egg Supply Farms
All poultry hatcheries engaged in the production of day old chicks, turkey poults or ducklings for the production of table birds or the replacement of laying ﬂocks must be licensed by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Only hatching eggs obtained in accordance with a permit issued by the Department may be incubated at a licensed poultry hatchery. All breeding stock at supply farms must be obtained from approved breeding sources and are subject to inspection and blood-testing to ensure freedom from serious poultry disease. All poultry hatcheries and supply farms involved in EU trade in live poultry and hatching eggs require approval from the Department. Each consignment for export must be inspected and accompanied by the relevant health certiﬁcate.
Poultry Meat Marketing
Poultrymeat marketed in the EU must be classiﬁed as class A or class B in accordance with its quality and be packed, labelled, transported and presented for sale in accordance with the requirements of EU and national legislation governing the marketing standards for poultry. The amount of absorbed water in poultry must fall below speciﬁed limits. Poultrymeat may be marketed as ‘free range’, ‘barn reared’, ‘traditional free range’ or ‘free range – total freedom’, or contain a reference to the feed ration used, provided certain criteria are met. Producers and slaughterhouses wishing to use these terms are required to register with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and keep appropriate records and are subject to oﬃcial Department inspections.
Eggs Marketing Regulations
Table eggs marketed at retail level in the EU must be graded by quality and weight and be packed, labelled, stored, transported and presented for sale in conformity with EU and national legislation on the marketing standards for eggs. Eggs must be marketed and packed in a epartment of Agriculture, Food and the Marine registered egg-packing centre. All registered egg packing centres are given a distinguishing number and are required to pay an annual fee in respect of their registration. Egg packs must indicate the farming method and bear a ‘best before’ date. This date is 28 days after laying but the latest date by which eggs must be sold to the consumer is 21 days after laying. Incubated eggs may not be sold for human consumption.
Eggs may be marketed under the terms ‘cage’, ‘free range’, ‘barn’ or ‘organic’ provided the applicable requirements of the legislation have been met. Producers and packers using these terms and indications must be registered with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and comply with relevant legislation.
Animal By-Products (ABP) are entire bodies or parts of animals or products of animal origin not intended for human consumption. The disposal of ABP is highly regulated in order to protect both human and animal health. The main legal requirements are set out in Regulation (EC) No. 1069/2009, its implementing Regulation (EU) No. 142/2011 and the European Union (Animal By-Products) Regulations 2014 (S.I. No. 187/2014).
Under this Regulation approval must be sought from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine for most operations dealing with ABP. These activities include operating;
• Rendering plants;
• Compost plants;
• Biogas plants;
• Pet food plants;
• Wool and hide stores;
• Intermediate plants;
• Meat and bonemeal (MBM) stores;
• Collection centres;
• Transporting ABP;
• Feeding meat from fallen animals to hounds or fur animals.