Smokies' £3m cash potential for meat processors – Report
of Article: http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/Processing/Smokies-3m-cash-potential-for-meat-processors-Report
By Rory Harrington, 11-Aug-2009
research has shown that abattoirs and processors could be major
beneficiaries from a move to legalise production of skin-on sheep meat,
estimated to be worth more than ₤3m annually in Wales alone.
The study, carried out on behalf of Hybu Cig
Cymru (HCC) - Meat Promotion for Wales - concluded that the currently
illegal production of skin-on sheep meat – or ‘smokies’ – could be
carried out safely and hygienically in approved abattoirs.
The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) announced
last week that the European Commission has indicated that EU
legislation could be changed to allow ‘smokies’ to be produced legally.
But the agency added the Commission would require “strong supporting
evidence” and any legalization process was likely to take a “number
HCC Chief Executive Gwyn Howells said: “This
is good news for the red meat sector. The livestock that is needed for
this product will be older cull ewes, and represent a product that is
in addition to our current output of premium quality Welsh Lamb. As a
result, skin-on sheep meat is an entirely new product generating new
income for everyone involved."
Potential processor benefits
The HCC report indicates that logistically it
would be possible for both abattoirs and processors to maker additions
to their production lines to incorporate extra machinery to deal with
smokies. But this would present challenges as the carcass changes
position at various stages along a modern inverted dressing line, which
could result in it being “in the wrong orientation for the process”,
said the HCC. Processors would need to organise the order of process on
the slaughterline to be: slaughter – singe – pressure wash – head
removal – eviscerate & dress – inspect – toast/ second singe,
advised the document.
Initial outlay cost for processors is
estimated to be between ₤75,000 and ₤125,000, to cover the
cost of machinery including singers and washers. There could also be
additional labour, space and separate storage costs, said the research
carried out by the University of Bristol for the HCC.
Barriers to entry
The cost of equipment will be a limiting
factor in the supply of smokie meat as well as discouraging some plants
from investing, said the report authors.
“Those who have little current knowledge of
the process or the market are unlikely to rush into production",
The research projected the £3.1m would be
generated by a throughput of 155,000 cull ewe carcasses annually in
Wales alone, with the retail price of each estimated at around
₤20. This is based on a retailer cut of £5, the abattoir £10 and
the producer £5.
“In practice, both the average retail premium
and the premium to the abattoir could be greater than this,” said the report
Abattoirs would have to process and market
7,500 ewes annually to cover cost of equipment of £75,000 for ‘skin-on
sheep meat’ production based of an increased income of £10/ head for
‘skin-on sheep meat’ carcasses over conventionally produced carcasses,
forecast the study.
Dossier of evidence
“It's too soon to speculate exactly when the
FSA will be in a position to approach the EC to call for a change in
current legislation," said Mr
Howells. "But this report adds to the dossier of evidence being
gathered by the FSA in favour of changing the law.
"The FSA have gathered evidence on meat
inspection and hygiene. Further work is ongoing on the residues of
veterinary medicines in the skin, which is due to be completed this
He said the FSA was expected to produce a
scientific report before petitioning Ministers to approach the EC to
propose a change of law.
"From the demand side alone, it is without
doubt in the interests of the Welsh red meat industry to approach the
EC to reconsider its position on the legalisation of this
process," said Mr Howells.