Overweight cattle cause supply chain problems

Too many beef farmers are missing the optimal time to sell their cattle, a new report by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and Scottish Enterprise has revealed, which causes financial and practical problems in the supply chain.

There has been an increase in farmers trying to maximise their income by selling heavier cattle. But the report makes it clear that additional labour and processing costs are added as a result. Trimming fat from sirloins and fore-ribs from fatter animals can add as much as 24% to the processing time, pushing up the number of staff required to deal with the additional work.

The report also revealed that retail and foodservice customers are concerned about reduced quality and the difficulty in portioning overweight carcases, particularly for cuts such as sirloin, fillet and rib, where the size and thickness matters.

Excessive fat also affects the retail value of the meat – reducing it by as much as £14/kg – while the yield of the carcase is also reduced, by around 4% from a R5L compared to a R4L.

Stuart Ashcroft, head of economic services at QMS, said: “Despite the overall year-on-year cattle price improvement, the latest information shows that the penalty in the market place for fatter cattle has increased.”

The report suggested a variety of ways that farmers could avoid the problems to present over-fat and overweight cattle for slaughter, including weighing livestock more often, visiting the abattoir to see the carcases or get feedback, and comparing production costs against the national averages.