Meat and Livestock Commercial Services Ltd (MLCSL) was formed in April 2006 to provide an appropriate commercial structure with a better-defined identity ahead of the implementation of the Levy Board review.
The levy board review dissolved the MLC and other Levy Boards into one over-arching body, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.
As the Operations Group of the MLC, the department had provided independent services and equipment on a commercial basis to the meat and livestock industry since the MLC was formed in 1967.
MLCSL now carries on those independent services and continues to develop its business, which provides services, equipment and advice on a national basis throughout the UK contributing to the industry efficiency and profitability.
The development of an authentication service, including classification, delivered today by MLCSL in the cattle, sheep and pig sectors, was seen as a key priority by the MLC, when it was set up 1967. The development of classification systems was seen as essential to improving the efficiency of the meat and livestock industry, by delivering a system to facilitate both the better trading of carcases and informing farmers about the carcase characteristics of the livestock they were producing to enable herd/flock improvement.
Cattle and sheep do not have the same uniformity in back fat depth as pigs. This is due to factors as diverse as breed, sex, weight , age, feeding regime, leading to variable fat cover and carcase shape. As a result to assess such carcases using a simple probe is not satisfactory.
The classification of cattle by MLCSL is carried out following the EU approved system through a visual assessment of the shape of the carcase, its conformation, and its fatness in accordance with the EUROP grid. These key components taken together with weight, sex and age are also good statistical indicators of the meat yield from the carcase, as indicated in the following table.
The core role of MLCSL staff within those abattoirs that purchase livestock on a deadweight basis is to provide an independent, unbiased and impartial service to the vendor and buyer to identify these key characteristics through the classification of livestock, verification of dressing specification and checking of weighing scales. This is done using highly trained staff.
This service is provided where it is requested on a fully commercial basis. It is carried out in compliance with EU regulations which require all abattoirs above a certain size to classify all cattle, clean pigs and young boars to EU standards.
Of the finished livestock produced in Great Britain today, more than 99% of pigs, 78% of cattle and 50% of sheep are sold on a deadweight basis. The amount of money paid by the abattoir company to the farmer is based on the key characteristics of the resulting carcase that are important to the buyer. These are principally the breed, sex, age and weight together with the assessment of the level of fatness and the conformation of the carcase.
These key characteristics provide clear indications of the meat yield and muscle shape that are important determinants of carcase quality. As such they form the basis for the classification schemes for beef, sheep and pigs and as a result are also widely used as the basis of payment to the vendors of livestock.