New MLCSL owner proposes independent scrutiny of carcase classification

The new owner of carcase classification body MLCSL has pledged to safeguard consistency, transparency and independence through the formation of a new, industry-led and independent scrutiny committee.

It comes less than a month after the £1.3 million sale to HallMark Veterinary Compliance Services completed.

David Peace, chairman of HallMark, said he had originally suggested the formation of an independent Carcase Classification Scrutiny Committee (CCSC) in response to industry concerns expressed during the consultation process over the sale.

He added that he looked forward to working with the committee to maintain the high standards of classification in the red meat processing sector.

Co-chaired by Andrew Loftus and Charles Sercombe, the CCSC will include key representatives from red meat stakeholder groups who were consulted during the sale of Meat and Livestock Commercial Services (MLCSL) to HallMark at the end of November.

Peace said: “I very much look forward to working closely with the CCSC and welcome the opportunity to demonstrate continuity and our determination to uphold the independence that MLCSL has been known for since it began its operations.

MLCSL has a very strong reputation and from my perspective, any initiative where we are able to work more closely with industry bodies to continue this and, potentially, enhance services further, can only be a positive move.

Andrew Loftus, co-chairman of the committee, said: “As an industry-led group, acting independently, we will work closely with the new owners to ensure the highest standards of classification, consistency across Great Britain and absolute fairness between processors and farmers.”

“It is very encouraging that farmer and processor groups have jointly agreed a comprehensive Quality Standard which will guide our work, and which also gives producers a right of appeal, should a dispute arise. This is a new era and farmers should be in no doubt that we will protect the independence of classification for the good of the industry.”

Lizzie Wilson, of the National Pig Association (NPA) and a member of the committee, said: “Our purpose is to ensure that a fair and professional service will be delivered after the change of ownership.

“We need consistent data that producers can access and if any issues arise or they feel their views are not being respected, they now have a group they can turn to.”

‘Business as usual’

Nick Allen, of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) said they were looking for a seamless transfer and it would be business as usual for suppliers.

“It is about ensuring transparency and fairness for all involved in the meat processing sector,” he said.

Dafydd Jarrett, of NFU Cymru, added: “The continuation of an independent, transparent and consistent grading system, with an easy-to-access appeal process is important and NFU Cymru believes that what is now being put in place will enable this to happen.”

The decision was made to sell MLCSL into the private sector in a bid to open up opportunities for greater efficiencies that would not have been possible under its public ownership through AHDB.

A year-long process was undertaken to identify suitable companies that met robust criteria set down by the AHDB Board, including value for money, a track record of delivering independent services and a commitment to the long-term future of the business.