Mechanical Grading to Start on 17 January

NORTHERN IRELAND - N2011, there will be a significant change in the local beef sector with the industry adopting Video Imaging Analysis (VIA) machines to classify cattle slaughtered in Northern Ireland meat plants.
calendar icon 24 December 2010
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The adoption of this technology marks the end of LMC’s long and distinguished role in beef and sheep grading and our classification services will effectively cease from 31 March 2011. Over the course of 2010, producer organisations including UFU, NBA and NIAPA engaged in a dialogue with NIMEAon the subject of VIAand an agreement was reached earlier in the year that the factories would commence using VIA technology from January 2011. At this stage, the UFU and NIMEA have asked LMCto provide the industry with an update on progress in the adoption of VIA.

Machines Now in Place

The machines are now physically in place in the seven meat plants listed below and the factories are in the process of integrating VIA on their kill lines.

  • ABP Lurgan
  • ABP Newry
  • Dunbia
  • Foyle Meats
  • Linden Foods
  • Omagh Meats
  • WD Meats

Ballymena Meats and Oakdale Meats will continue to grade cattle manually. Sheep processors will continue to grade manually.

Subject to License

Once the machines are operational, they are subject to inspection and must licensed by DARD before they can be used in an official capacity. Until that point, regardless of whether the machines are operational, official grades will continue to be determined by LMC Classification Officers.

Single Switch on Date 17 January

NIMEA members have agreed to operate a single- switch-on date for VIA. This means, that subject to license, the machines are scheduled to be used in an official capacity in all factories from 17 January 2011. From that point, the official grade will be that awarded by the machine.

LMC Role

LMC Classification Officers shall remain in post until the end of March 2011, during which time they will be responsible for checking weigh scales, supervising trimming and classifying any carcases that the machine fails to classify or classifying all carcases if the machine is not working. According to the EUlegislation governing the classification of cattle, a licensed classification officer must be available on-site at all times while slaughtering is taking place, even while a grading machine is operational. This requirement will be the factories’ responsibility after 31 March 2011.


Grades awarded by the machine cannot be appealed and there is no appeals procedure.

15 Point Scale

A 5-point classification scale is currently used in NI with limited use of sub-classes ( e.g. O+/-, P+/-, 4L/H). VIA machines are configured to grade cattle to a 15-point scale which means that the full range of sub-classes will be employed. Each class for conformation and fat (E, U, 2, 3 etc) will have associated sub-classes (+, =, -). This means that under VIA there will be 225 possible grades. Under the current 5-point scale there are only 54 possible grades.

New Price Grid Agreed

Following dialogue between producer representatives and NIMEA, a new price grid based on the 15-point scale has been negotiated. This agreed price grid is illustrated in Table 1. The basis for factory quotes will be the U-3 grade (highlighted in white). The current quoted price for U3 will be equivalent to the U-3 price under the new grid. Like the current system, increments will be paid / deductions made for each movement along the scale away from the base grade. For example, an animal killing at U+3= is awarded base price + 4p/kg. An animal killing at R=4- is awarded base price -6/kg. Under this pricing grid, deductions become steeper for cattle killing closer to the extremes of the scale.

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.

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