Control Points for Quality of Pork and Beef in the International Trade in Goods

Classes of the carcase, semi-carcase and quarter-carcase are the main control points in the international trade in pork and beef, but there is also a sensory assessment of chemical and physical processes which take place during post-slaughter cooling and storage of carcases. Also, the process of cutting and boning of meat, and compliance with the declared quality parameters of meat products undergo evaluation. So, what do the carcase classification systems look like on the territory of the European Union (EU)?

(S)EUROP is the system of pork and beef carcase classification used in all countries of the European Union [1]. It mainly focuses on the evaluation of meat content in a carcase. There are six classes within the pork carcase classification (S) EUROP system: S, E, U, R, O, and P. Each class defines different meat content in pork or beef carcase, and allows to precisely define the intended use of such raw material. This classification is mandatory in those EU slaughterhouses which slaughter over 3,900 animals per year, in relation to carcase obtained from adult animals which weight over 300 kg, or in those European slaughterhouses which slaughter over 200 swine per week, weighing between 60-120 kg.

Classification of pork carcase is based, among other things, on modern computer technology and it involves needle measurements of fat depth in certain parts of the carcase and further calculations of the percentage of meat in a carcase. Percentage of meat in a carcase also referred to as meat content is defined as the percentage of general striated muscles weight in relation to the total carcase weight. Weighting and measurements of meat content in pork carcase are carried out no later than 45 minutes after slaughter. Only authorised classifiers are allowed to carry out an evaluation of the meat content. In the case of beef carcase their weight and commercial quality class according to the (S) EUROP system should be defined by an authorised classifier within one hour from the commencement of the slaughter procedure. The classifier identifies conformation and fat cover class by evaluating the degree of muscle formation, and by evaluating fat cover in pork carcase with the use of a visual method.

On the territory of the countries of the Community, regular controls are carried out on average three times in each quarter of a year concerning compliance with beef carcase classification, and in the case of pork carcase twice in a quarter. Such controls involve, among other things, checking if the classification was carried out by an authorised classifier. Also, the following are controlled: correctness of classification and labelling, legalisation and documentation of scales calibration, time of classification and weighing of carcases, the correctness of protocols from identification of carcase quality class, compliance of documentation issued for providers of slaughter animals with the documentation of the processing plant. Such measures allow EU producers to maintain high, repeatable quality of pork, beef and their products.

It is worth highlighting that the production of pork, beef and their products on the territory of the EU is carried out under the strict supervision of veterinary and sanitary services. One of the examples of the functioning of quality systems are veterinary examinations carried out after the slaughter of animals. Results of sanitary and veterinary examinations are portrayed in a form of appropriate stamps, which contain information about the class, healthiness, and processing usefulness of the meat.

The introduction of general, pork carcase classification system in the EU countries allows to clearly define the commercial quality of the produced meat. Carcases are marked directly after classification with stamps or/and by labels on the skin. A label should contain the following information: name and approval number of the slaughterhouse, identification number or slaughter number of the animal, date of slaughter, class, conformation and fat cover class. Use of the (S) EUROP system by EU pork and beef producers allows to precisely define the commercial value of the produced, raw materials.

These unique food quality management systems allow preparing batches of export goods which comply with the expectations of foreign partners. Standardisation of meat content in pork carcases allows to precisely define their intended use, and it is useful for the evaluation of the culinary value of pork and beef.

[1]Regulation of the Council of the European Union no 1234/2007, Regulation of the European Commission no 1249/2008