New measures to improve fairness and transparency for livestock producers are being proposed with a consultation on mandating sheep carcass classification to ensure consistency across all abattoirs in England.

Under the proposals, qualified assessors will use a standard grid to classify carcasses and determine how much a producer should be paid. As producers will also receive the results of the classification process, the changes will ensure producers are paid for their livestock in a fair and transparent way. This is designed to help them plan, react to the market and improve productivity.

Farming minister George Eustice said: "The quality of our lamb is the envy of the world. This consultation is an important step in improving fairness for sheep farmers and ensuring they get a fair deal for their excellent produce."

Today’s announcement follows the government’s response to the Groceries Code Adjudicator (GCA) call for evidence which included plans for a £10 million collaboration fund and compulsory dairy contracts and sheep carcass classification.

Updating carcass classification is one of a number of measures the government will bring in to help protect the interests of farmers and small producers. It will also bring carcass classification for sheep in line with classification for cows and pigs which has been mandatory in commercial-scale abattoirs for many years.

The consultation will run for 12 weeks and plans will affect abattoirs slaughtering more than 1,000 sheep a week in England. There are also suggestions for greater transparency that would affect all beef, pig and sheep abattoirs, including publishing a schedule of charges for all livestock species.

Wales is running a parallel consultation with England, which opens on Thursday May 31.