Rigorous checks to maintain accuracy

WITH the accuracy of VIA being one of the biggest issues, the systems installed in Irish plants are checked rigorously by the Department of Agriculture.

David Donnelly from the department’s beef classification division, based at Portlaoise, said not only were the individual systems checked by five of his department’s staff every two weeks, but the performance of the ‘checkers’ was also monitored every six weeks to ensure a national standard is maintained.

When an abattoir VIA is checked, a hand-held device downloads data from the system for the previous three or four days.

Up to 100 carcases are then selected from the chiller and the device shows how they were graded by the VIA. Department staff – all ex-graders – then compare their own assessment of the carcases with that of the ‘system’ and a print-out of the comparisons is created.

“The comparison is on a 15 point scale and an concordance of 85 per cent or above is regularly achieved,” said Mr Donnelly.

“In practice, there are few anomalies. However, you cannot really compare the change in the percentage of different grades pre- and post- VIA in Ireland because of the change in demand for the export market to which producers responded,” he said.

In addition to these checks, each morning before start-up, the VIA system must assess a special fabricated test frame of known parameters. Were it to fail, it could not be put into operation.

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