NBA Fears Accuracy Of VIA

UK - The National Beef Association (NBA) continues to be concerned about the accuracy of Video Image Analysis (VIA) classification – which has been introduced in Northern Ireland and is expected to be soon adopted by many large abattoirs in Great Britain.
calendar icon 21 June 2011
clock icon 3 minute read

Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture (DARD) officials inspecting classification and dressing specification performance for VIA in Northern Ireland have again confirmed that a high number of carcases being directed past VIA scanning machines have not been dressed to the required UK Specification.

This is a worry to the NBA, and its members, because VIA machines operating in the UK have been specifically calibrated to classify carcases that have been trimmed to the UK Specification - and could be struggling to be accurate if the carcase is dressed incorrectly and therefore has a different shape.

The first dressing inspection, which covered seven NI plants over April, when the VIA system began to operate, confirmed that at best 96.2 per cent of carcases processed in a plant were dressed to specification and at worst there were just 84.2 per cent. The second, conducted over May, showed an improvement. One abattoir achieved 98.6 per cent accuracy but three others hovered just over the 90 per cent mark and one recorded 88.9 per cent.

This still contrasts badly with carcase dressing standards in GB’s price reporting abattoirs where, if even one incorrectly trimmed carcase is spotted by inspectors during a random visit, it is brought to the notice of the management, Correct carcase dressing is also important because it directly affects the value of the carcase when it is weighed for payment and if too much is trimmed off before the scales the finisher loses money.

“What can, and cannot, be removed from the carcase is clearly laid out by EU regulation and price reporting abattoirs in the UK are required to dress carcases exactly to the UK Dressing Specification template,” explained NBA chairman, Oisin Murnion.

“Clearly this is not yet happening in Northern Ireland where inspectors have confirmed in print that sometimes too much fat is removed by hide pullers, sometimes there is over trimming of the brisket area to expose red meat, and sometimes there is over trimming of the neck muscle.”

”These shortfalls were highlighted by the NBA before the results of the DARD inspections were known, and because at that time we were unable to back our assertions with official evidence, we were obliged, following pressure from NIMEA, to withdraw them.”

“However DARD inspectors have since confirmed that in May around 1.4 per cent of carcases at the best performing plant, and 11.1 per cent at the worst, were incorrectly dressed so we are publicly re-iterating our concerns.”

“Some plant operators have suggested that 90 per cent compliance is adequate otherwise it is difficult to maintain line speed and processing become more expensive.”

“However our clear understanding is that 99.9 per cent carcase dressing accuracy is achieved in GB and we want to see that standard enforced in NI too.”

“If it is not there remains a danger that VIA machines could be confused because carcases are not trimmed to the shape they are programmed to recognise and they therefore miscalculate the classification. We contend this misalignment with the template image may be contributing to the ten per cent reduction in U classifications and the eight per cent rise in Os.”

“Also the owners of carcases that are incorrectly dressed will lose money, perhaps as much as £10-£15 a head, because the bodies are lighter than they should be when they are weighed for payment.”

“At the same time the Association struggles to understand the assertion that a higher dressing specification hit rate would slow down line speed when one of the concerns of DARD’s inspectors is that too much, not too little, of the carcase is removed before it is classified and weighed,” Mr Murnion added.

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