October 10, 2003



Holland Implements Better Classification of Pigmeat


The Dutch pigmeat industry wants to supply its customers with safe products of consistently high quality. The Dutch IKB quality system for pigmeat guarantees safe and reliable production practices. On the other hand the Central Bureau of Slaughter-stock Services would ensure the classification of slaughtered pigs are done by independent experts.

For years the classification results have tended to reflect the trend in market demand: good musculature and a high percentage of meat. Since the trends in market demand and in Dutch pigmeat production run parallel with one another, the industry can continue to meet customer demand without any problem. Nowadays the demand tends to be for lean meat. Customers who prefer their pigmeat to have a slightly thicker layer of back fat still have ample choice.

Trained inspectors from the independent Central Bureau of Slaughter-stock Services (CBS) carry out the classification of pig carcasses in the Netherlands. The percentage of meat is determined using the Hennessy Grading Probe (HGP). The classifier measures the lean meat percentage on the back of each carcass, between the third and fourth rib. On the basis of the results, the meat is classified according to the European"SEUROP" classification. Based on the percentage of lean meat, pork is classified as follows:


S       60% lean meat or more

E       55-60% lean meat

U       50-55% lean meat

R       45-50% lean meat

O       40-45% lean meat

P       less than 40% lean meat


The carcass is stamped or labelled with the classification. The quality of the classification carried out by the CBS is monitored by the Quality Control Classification Commission (CKC), which was set up by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture.

The Netherlands is currently looking at the possibility of switching from instrument-based classification to classification-based on video imaging, and some processors have already incorporated this advanced technology into the production line.

In addition to the percentage of meat, pig inspectors in the Netherlands also determine the "type" of pig. The assessment takes into account the musculature of the slaughtered pig, specifically the shape and volume of the main parts of the animal: the legs, the loins, the shoulders and the belly.

Assessment criteria for type determination of pig carcasses in the Netherlands

    • The legs must be heavy, well developed and well filled out
    • The loins must be thick and heavy
    • The shoulders must be well developed and muscular
    • The belly must have a good proportion of meat.  

The type classification comprises four grades:


AA       exceptionally good musculature

A         good to very good musculature

B         moderate musculature

C         fairly thin musculature


All pigs are assessed for type. Many slaughterhouses and meat processors stamp the type assessment on the carcass. But this is not compulsory.

Recent report findings show that both the percentage of meat and the type assessment have improved. Almost 90% of all carcasses receive a high type assessment (AA or A), which means a substantial supply of very meaty pig carcasses and pork cuts, ideal for processing into high-quality meat products.

The average percentage of meat is also increasing, which satisfies consumer demand for lean meat. However, there is still a sufficient supply of meat of the quality grades with slightly more fat.


Carcasses with the same percentage of meat and the same type assessment appear to yield good, uniform consignments of pigmeat. Customer demand focuses on the combination grades with the highest percentages of meat and the best musculature: SAA, EAA, SA and EA. The percentage of carcasses that come within these four grades rose from 69.7% in 2001 to 72.2% in 2002.

The good classification results guarantee that retailers of Dutch pigmeat can go to their supplier for meat that exactly meets their requirements. The Dutch pig industry will, however, continue to keep a close eye on trends in demand for pigmeat so as to be able to respond in good time by modifying production.