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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) and E (heifer).

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, Fisheries and Food. In these cases, the supplier can appeal the decision of the classifier to the slaughter plant.

Further information can be obtained from Beef Classification Section, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Grattan Business Centre, Portlaoise, Co Laois. Tel: 057 869 4407.