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EU Beef Carcase Classification Scheme

The aim of Beef Carcase Classification is to ensure a common classification standard throughout the European Union. This enables the EU to operate a standardised beef price reporting system.

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 8-12mts).

Conformation and Fat grades are further broken down into sub classes e.g. R+3-, O=,2+.

Classification information is returned to the supplier by the slaughter plant on the producer return. This producer return will also state whether the classification was carried out by mechanical or manual methods.

From late 2004, most beef carcasses (90%) are classified by mechanical means using VIA technology (Video Image Analysis). 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, Food and the Marine, Grattan Business Centre, Portlaoise, Co Laois. Tel: 057 869 4407.

 Weekly and Cumulative Beef Kill Figures

To calculate the weighted average price, the total value (€’s) of all the carcasses in a particular grade is divided by the total weight (Kg’s) of all the carcasses for that grade.

Average Prices    
2019 2018  2017
Average Weights 2019  2018  2017
Average Numbers 2019  2018  2017

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

5 X 5 Price Report 2019

The prices in this table are the Weighted Average Prices for each Full Class for Cat A, B, C, D, E and Z. It should be noted that these prices are calculated using all subclasses for the particular grade.

For example, the price of an ‘R1’ is calculated by taking all carcasses in the following sub classes  R+1+, R+1=, R+1-, R=1+, R=1=, R=1-, R-1+, R-1= and R-1- and calculating the weighted average price.


Beef Carcase Classification Figures (2011 2019)

Beef Carcase Classification and Price reporting Annual Reports

Report on a modification trial of the Mechanical Beef Classification System currently in use in Ireland

Report on Inspections Carried Out by DAFM from 2016 - 2018 in Accordance with Regulation 6(1) of SI No. 363/2010 (Carcase Presentation/Trim)

1.7 million carcasses have been slaughtered to December 2018, 1.7 million for the year 2017 and 1.6 million for 2016. To date in 2018 there have been 521 inspections across 32 slaughter plants and 44,332 carcasses have been inspected by classification officers within DAFM. In 2017 there were 628 inspections and 56,330 carcases inspected and in 2016 there were 616 inspections on 57,000 carcases.

On average, each factory has been inspected 16 times to date with an average of 85 carcasses per inspection. The legal requirement is 8 inspections per year on only 40 carcasses per inspection. 

The level of non-compliance with the carcase trim specification found is 0.05% of all carcases inspected in 2018. In 2016 the percentage non-compliance is also 0.05%.

No fines were issued in 2017. A concerted campaign by DAFM,  with the co-operation of with Meat Industry Ireland,  took place in that year to raise awareness of the standard of presentation and the requirements for carcase dressing.

Further detail on the non-compliances is as follows:


In 2018 non-compliance was identified in 3 factories: Emerald Isle Foods, Kildare Chilling and KEPAK Clare. A total of 19 carcasses were non-compliant.



Total non-compliant carcases

Emerald Isle Foods*


Kildare Chilling Company






* Started classification in 2018


Non-compliance with carcase presentation was identified in 4 factories in 2016: Kildare Chilling Company, Traditional Meats, Meadow Meats and Kepak Kilbeggan. A total of 28 carcasses were considered non-compliant.



Total non-compliant carcases

Kildare Chilling Company


Traditional Meats


Meadow Meats*


KEPAK KiIlbeggan




*On-the-spot notices issued to this company included incorrect references to the relevant legislation

Procedure for appealing classification grades in manual factories