Fred'll Fit It

I am purchasing sides of beef from an abattoir that is not taking the deadweight printed on the carcase label along with grade and other traceability information, but reweighing the carcase and charging me more. Is this a correct procedure? DS

The most likely reason is that the abattoir is finding that some carcases are weighing heavier 'cold' than is allowed for in what is called the 'hot weight rebate', calculated straight after slaughter.

Carcases are still warm immediately after slaughter and these so-called 'hot' carcases are reduced in weight by 2% to allow for moisture loss as they cool in the chiller. The following day, or later, carcases are weighed again when they are brought out of the chiller. Weight loss will vary according to the efficiency of the chiller and how long the carcases are held there. The original deadweight printed on the label that forms part of the traceability guarantee shows the cold weight calculated when a carcase is weighed hot. Some abattoirs will simply charge using this original calculation, but others will reweigh the carcase.

Furthermore, if the sides are cut into forequarters and hindquarters before delivery this will result in some further minor weight loss and may also account for any discrepancy between the weight stated on the deadweight label and the weight of meat you receive. Ask the abattoir if this is the reason for the discrepancy between what it says on the label and what you are being charged. As long as you are being charged for the actual weight of carcase delivered, then there should not be a problem.

I am looking to source Welsh Black beef. Is the quality of the meat consistent? MDJ

Eating quality for any breed will be dependent on a range of criteria, including the rearing and feeding regime employed, the handling of the cattle prior to slaughter, the slaughter process, the hanging conditions of the carcase, and the maturation period.

The good news for fans of Welsh Black beef is that the Breed Society is undertaking a selective breeding programme over a six-month period, thanks to an award of 60,000 under the Rural Development Plan for Wales, to record animals' performance in terms of growth and quality. Semen will be taken from the best bull on trial and offered to Society members free of charge to artificially inseminate their cows. Although not directly aimed at eating quality, it is still a step in the right direction in terms of improving the availability of quality Welsh Black beef. The project forms part of the work carried out by HCC under the Rural Development Plan 2007-2013, which is financed by the European Union and the Welsh Assembly Government.

I am looking for a meat book to calculate the breakdown of prices for a carcase, a bit like a ready reckoner type of thing. I have been looking for several weeks online without any success. I know they are around, as I used to have one a few years back. PJW

You are thinking of the ready reckoner that Meat Trades Journal published in the 1980s. Unfortunately, it is no longer available.

However, there are a series of excellent added-value cuts calculators on the Eblex trade website at www.eblexretail.co.uk for beef and lamb. Simply enter the delivery weight of your meat and the price per kg you paid; the total wholesale price is automatically calculated. Once the carcase has been fully boned out and prepared, enter the weight of each cut there are 14 available on the calculator programme and the total saleable meat is automatically calculated. It also shows the meat yield as a percentage of the total carcase. Enter your retail selling prices per kg for each cut and the calculator will automatically calculate the retail value from each cut and show the total retail value that you achieve from the carcase. Gross margin is also calculated. It is a clever business tool.

In addition, the template can be downloaded, so you can add in your own cuts. The programme worked well on my desktop computer, but not on my mobile phone. A mobile version would be useful for butchers working at the counter. It may work on phones that have Microsoft Excel installed. Eblex says there are no immediate plans to introduce a calculator app, but based on demand, they may consider one.