21st July 2021

Significant proportion of Scottish livestock still failing to meet market specification

With close to 40% of sheep and 30% of beef cattle in Scotland still failing to meet market specifications resulting in financial, productivity and efficiency costs, Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) is encouraging more farmers to utilise their virtual carcase grading tool, Meat the Grade. 

Developed to help farmers boost their bottom line by improving livestock selection and management for slaughter, the virtual Meat the Grade tool was launched in late 2020. 

Beth Alexander, QMS Cattle and Sheep Specialist who helped develop the tool, said that livestock that are overfat and overweight are two of the most common reasons for ‘out of spec’ carcases. 

“Only 72.7% of the steers and 60.9% of lambs processed by Scottish price reporting abattoirs in 2020 met specification. When we’re talking about specification, for lamb we are talking about an E, U, or R grade for conformation, a 2 and 3L for fat and up to 21kg deadweight with a large number of processors not paying for any weight past 21kg. 

“For cattle, again an E, U, or R grade for conformation and a 2,3 and 4L for fat. Many processors are inflicting penalties for carcases over 420kg deadweight, though some have reduced this to 400kg. It depends how, when and where you are marketing your livestock.” 

The tool gives producers the opportunity to learn about the requirements of the whole supply-chain – from abattoir grading systems and hygiene requirements to consumer preferences for consistency to allow for planning and to improve their productivity and profitability. 

Developed alongside processors to help farmers boost their bottom line by improving livestock selection and management for slaughter, Meat the Grade, has been met with positive feedback from farmers utilising the tool. 

Alongside her position at QMS, Beth also works on the family’s upland beef and sheep farm in Perthshire and has found, in practice, that the tool helps to realign yourself to what processors and consumers need. 

“It’s really worthwhile familiarising yourself with the tool as there is a lot of practical information about grading and what processors are looking for. 

“Tools like Meat the Grade benefit the whole supply chain as we can get a better understanding of how we can all work together for the benefit of the end consumer.  

“It’s important to us that farmers provide feedback on the tools we develop to ensure they are beneficial for possible for everyone across the supply chain.” 

Users are able to provide feedback via the Meat the Grade tool which is now available to access by visiting the Quality Meat Scotland website: www.qmscotland.co.uk.  

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