Carcase classification specialist Meat and Livestock Commercial Services (MLCSL) has announced a seven-year contract to provide leading international meat processor Kepak Group with three automated carcase classification machines in two of its UK plants overseen by MLCSL’s independent, on-site classification officers.
MLCSL, which was acquired by Vorenta Limited – which also owns Hallmark Veterinary Compliance Services – from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board in 2018, plans to install the VBS 2000 machines this year in Kepak’s facilities at Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales and Bodmin in Cornwall. MLCSL is working with the Rural Payments Agency to secure the appropriate licences for them.
The automated carcase classification process, known as Video Image Analysis (VIA), uses cameras and bespoke software to classify carcases on the EUROP scale.
David Peace, Chairman, MLCSL, said: “We are absolutely delighted to agree this new partnership with Kepak, one of Europe’s foremost meat processers.
“The machines use E+V camera-based technology which is already widely utilised in Kepak’s Irish manufacturing sites.
“It is a superb opportunity for MLCSL to demonstrate that we can provide these machines, as well as maintain the overall independent classification service which includes having our own classification officers permanently overseeing the grading process in each plant.”
Tom Finn, Chief Commercial Officer, Kepak, said: “The move into automation in two of our UK plants is a significant advance for Kepak, whilst continuing to rely on the long-standing and highly-respected independent classification service.
“MLCSL has agreed to provide three machines as well as classification officers to manage the work on a permanent basis.
“It is an exciting development which further emphasises Kepak’s established reputation for efficiency and transparency in our relationships with suppliers and customers. The support of the NFU and FUW will contribute to a smooth changeover of systems to include VIA grading.”
Wyn Evans, Vice Chair, NFU Livestock Board and Chair, NFU Cymru Livestock Board, said: “I welcome the rollout of automated carcase classification at two Kepak sites, Merthyr and Bodmin.
“Crucially we must continue to maintain trust and transparency in the weighing and grading/classification process that ensures producers are adequately and fairly rewarded for the livestock they produce.
“The introduction of automated classification at Kepak, where this will be supported by a fully trained independent MLCSL classification officer, will give producers the confidence that their livestock are classified consistently and accurately.”
Glyn Roberts, President, Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW), said: “Getting such technology up and running has been supported by FUW for many years, and we therefore fully support this move.
“The independent oversight of the system will bolster the transparency this system brings, and we look forward to seeing the machines being installed and the new automated grading process being launched in the coming months.”