Yield research highlights classification grid benefits

A review of meat yield based on the EUROP classification scale has found that carcases hitting the key target areas of the grid still provide the largest volume of saleable meat.

The EBLEX project was set up to verify the value of the system currently in place in England to classify carcases for indicating meat yield. The upper central areas of the grid – typically coloured green and covering classes E3, E4L, U3, U4L, R3, R4L – illustrate to processors, auctioneers and producers the target fat covering and conformation to achieve best returns for cattle, demonstrating where there is highest yield of meat.

The research found both fat class and conformation class have significant effects on the yield of saleable meat from the carcase, with a difference in yield of 11% of the side weight when moving from O4H to U2 classification, for example. For an average 289.2kg carcase weight from the study sample, this represents a difference of 31.8kg.

Kim Matthews, head of research and development at EBLEX, said: “Even on the cautious assumption that all the additional weight is trim, at a wholesale value of £3.30* for 93% visual lean trim this represents £104.94 per carcase.

“As part of the project, beef sides from carcases selected to represent a range across the classification grid were broken down using commercial primal butchery, so we could see how the yield is distributed across the carcase. It is clear that excess fat is an important factor in determining yields.

“While visual carcase classification has some disadvantages, these results clearly show that it remains an important tool for the assessment of carcase value and target market specification.”

This project has nurtured an improved understanding of the link between classification and yield. This will help industry assess the value of carcases and enable abattoirs to better reward for those carcases that have higher inherent value. The information also informs the discussion on the value of other carcase assessment methods, like VIA, by providing a benchmark against which any added value of other methods can be compared.

The key target areas show where there is most likely to be high UK demand, premium prices and overall best returns.