Meat factories guilty of excessively trimming carcasses on a given day should be forced to pay a higher price on all cattle killed that day, according to independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice.
Speaking on the matter, he said: “You have to hit the factories in the pocket if you want them to abide by these regulations. So far, they have been able to flout the rules with little or no consequences.
“Following over 520 inspections this year to date across 32 factories, a total of 19 cases were discovered where carcass trimming rules were broken – but farmers are concerned that countless other cases could be falling through the net.
“These revelations have continued to sour the relationship between farmers and the factories.
“With many beef and suckler farmers struggling to survive due to continued low prices, the news that some factories have been breaking the carcass-trimming regulations has infuriated farmers – and rightly so.
“Farmers are also disappointed with the fact that the Minister for Agriculture has failed to name and shame the factories found to be in breach of these rules – despite him being given plenty of opportunities to do so.
“If a person is caught drink driving or if they are fined by Revenue, their name appears in the paper. So why are these factories allowed to operate with impunity?
“The minister needs to stand up for the farmers and name the factories guilty of excessively trimming carcasses.
“This matter is too important for him to take a back seat, for fear that he might step on the toes of the fat cats that run these processing plants,” he added.
Continuing, the Roscommon-Galway TD stressed that incidents of excessive carcass trimming can have a serious impact on the price received by the farmer.
“If a carcass is excessively trimmed, the farmer could potentially lose a number of bonuses due to a drop in grade or fat score. As well as that, they would be out of pocket for the meat that was trimmed.
“This would lead to farmers taking home a significantly smaller payment than they would if the rules were being followed to the letter of the law.
“On a family farm, those payments go towards putting food on the table and paying bills – they can make the difference between a family being able to send a young person to college or not.
“Farmers are being squeezed on every side. Costs are continuing to rise, while the price they receive for their quality produce remains stagnant.
“One would have to ask if this practice of excessive trimming is just another cynical method that the factories have utilised to draw the last drop of blood from farmers.
“The minister must make it absolutely clear where his allegiances lie, because right now farmers are questioning whether he is really on their side,” Deputy Fitzmaurice concluded.