On appeal from: [2017] EWCA Civ 400.

This appeal considered whether the left-over meat on an animal carcass after it has been mechanically butchered, which is then removed from that carcass via a second mechanical process which does not crush the meat, should properly be categorised as “Mechanically separated meat” (“MSM”) within the definition in Point 1.14 of Annex I to EU Regulation No. 853/2004. The Supreme Court unanimously dismisses the appeal.

The court discussed the proper interpretation of point 1.14 to decide whether the meat should be classified as MSM, requires a correct application of the guidance provided in the CJEU judgment. The CJEU found three criteria for defining MSM:

  1. the use of bones from which the intact muscles have already been detached, or of poultry carcasses, to which meat remains attached;
  2. the use of methods of mechanical separation to recover that meat; and
  3. the loss or modification of the muscle fibre structure of the meat recovered through the use of those processes.

The CJEU added that any meat product which satisfies those three criteria must be classified as MSM, irrespective of the degree of loss or modification of the muscle fibre structure, provided the loss or modification is greater than that which is strictly confined to the cutting point (“the cutting point qualification”) [26].

The Supreme Court chose to give a narrow reading to this ‘cutting point’ qualification, referring to the cutting of intact muscles. They concluded that meat removed from a carcase will not be MSM if it is removed by mechanical means in the first phase of cutting meat from the whole carcase, but will generally be MSM if it is later removed by mechanical means [57].

Finally, as the CJEU judgment made it explicit that, applying the definition in point 1.14, that the Appellant’s products fall to be categorised as MSM, the position is acte clair and no further reference to the CJEU is needed.

For judgment, please download: [2019] UKSC 18
For Court’s Press Summary, please download: Court’s Press Summary
For a non-PDF version of the judgment, please visit: BAILII
To watch the hearing, please visit: Supreme Court Website (30th Jan Morning Session) (30th Jan Afternoon Session)