New scrutiny committee to oversee MLCSL activities after Hallmark purchase

An industry-led, independent scrutiny committee will oversee the activities of carcase classification body MLCSL, following its transfer into the private sector.

AHDB completed the sale of MLCSL to Hallmark at the end of November. In order to address industry concerns about a possible lack of oversight from the move, an independent Carcase Classification Scrutiny Committee (CCSC) has been established.

The committee is co-chaired by Andrew Loftus, a Yorkshire farmer and member of the NFU Livestock Board, and NFU livestock chairman Charles Sercombe. Other key representatives from red meat stakeholder groups who were consulted during the sale will be on the committee, including NPA policy services officer Lizzie Wilson.

Hallmark chairman David Peace said the committee will safeguard the consistency, transparency and independence of MLCSL under its new ownership. He said he had originally suggested the formation of the committee in response to industry concerns expressed during the consultation process over the sale, which began in March.

He 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.”

Mr Loftus 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 added: “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.”

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.

AHDB believes moving MLCSL into the private sector with a company that has a strong track record of delivering independent services to the meat industry, will open up opportunities for greater efficiencies and synergies that would not be possible under the current public ownership model and secure the future of independent classification in Great Britain.

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.

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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.