Meat Industry

3 Meat Industry

3.1 Trends in the Organization of the Meat Industry



In this chapter we consider the organization of the UK meat industry against the background of EU and world meat production. International trade in meat is increasing, driven by the differentials in production costs between countries. The UK has high production costs in comparison, for example, with Brazil and Thailand, who currently supply significant amounts of poultry meat to the UK market.

Production costs of pig meat in different countries are illustrated in Fig. 3.1. These are influenced by factors such as average feed and land prices, which are high in UK, and the costs of compliance with legislation – for example, controls over nitrogen pollution, which are high in Japan. There is a general trend for production costs to be high in UK, which puts British producers at a disadvantage.

UK, EU and World Meat Production

Data for the volume of meat production in UK and other countries are shown in Table 3.1. The USA is the world’s major beef-producing country, producing 65% more than all the EU countries together. China produces more than double the amount of sheep and pig meat than the EU countries and the USA double the amount of poultry meat. Within the EU, the UK is the major sheep producer and is high on the list of poultry producers. In 1990, the UK produced 990,000 tonnes of beef. The BSE crisis is primarily responsible for reducing this to the present 700,000 tonnes.

In the world generally, the production of meat is increasing to meet demand. Poultry and pork production is increasing faster than that of the other meats and this is occurring in intensive rather than in extensive production systems. In Europe, legislation is encouraging more extensive meat production.


Fig. 3.1. Actual production costs of pig meat in various countries, 2003 (£ sterling/kg live weight) (from UK Meat and Livestock Commission).

Table 3.1. Total meat production in different countries (1000 tonnes) (data taken from UK Meat and Livestock Commission).


Meat consumption patterns

Countries differ in meat consumption as in meat production patterns. Figures for the UK and the average for the EU countries are shown in Fig. 3.2. Total meat consumption is lower in the UK, particularly for pig meat. This partly reflects the many forms, fresh and processed, in which pig meat products are consumed in other EU countries. Although the average EU consumption of pig meat is currently 43 kg, it is 66 kg in Spain and 64 kg in Denmark.

There are many factors influencing meat consumption other than price and availability. Some of the important ones in the UK include the popularity of high-protein rather than of high-carbohydrate foods (e.g. Dr Atkins diet), vegetarianism, food safety scares (especially BSE), animal welfare issues (e.g. intensification) and nutritional value (red meats high in saturated fat). For such diverse reasons, meat consumption patterns change over time. Consumption trends in the UK between 1900 and 2000 are shown in Fig. 3.3. Meat consumption rose dramatically after the Second World War, especially for poultry meat. Over time, beef has become less popular than poultry meat and suffered a major fall during the BSE crisis. However, beef consumption in the UK is now well above the pre-BSE level.


Fig. 3.2. Meat consumption by species in the UK (image) and EU (average, image). Data taken from the UK Meat and Livestock Commission, 2000).


Fig. 3.3. UK meat consumption, 1900–2000 (from various sources including Eurostat and the UK Meat and Livestock Commission).

Organization of meat industries

The meat industry in a typical country such as the UK consists of many individual producers who supply the raw material, far fewer processors who transform this into fresh meat and meat products, an even smaller number of retailers who distribute and sell to consumers and finally, large numbers of consumers. The model shown in Table 3.2 is very dynamic and constantly changing. In the UK, the number of individual livestock farms and farmers has declined greatly as we have changed from being a rural to an industrial society and beyond, and continues to decline (Table 3.3). Processors need sufficient scale to operate sufficiently and their contraction has been even more marked than that of producers (Table 3.4). Retailing in many developed countries is falling into fewer and fewer hands, and supermarkets have taken over from butchers as the major retailers of meat (Fig. 3.4). The major supermarket retailers, such as Walmart in the USA, Carrefour in France and Tesco in the UK, operate globally and have a policy of low prices. They are in a strong position to influence prices paid to processors and indirectly to producers. In some countries, perhaps particularly in the UK, these ‘partners in the meat supply chain’ have acted separately, with little active cooperation between them. In others, a higher degree of integration has developed. For example in Denmark, the companies who dominate pig processing and manufacturing are owned by producers as part of a cooperative arrangement. Danish Crown now controls 90% of pig processing in Denmark.

Table 3.2. Typical meat industry organization in the UK.

Industry member

Relative size

Relationship with other industry members


Large numbers

Not well integrated with other groups in the meat chain


Recent reduction in numbers has led to larger abattoirs with bigger throughputs

Strategic links with retailers



Small group

Strong position



Global sourcing



Trusted by consumers


Large numbers





Table 3.3. Numbers of UK livestock holdings (data taken from UK National Census).


Table 3.4. Company share of UK pig slaughter, 1998–2002 (data taken from UK Meat and Livestock Commission).


Fig. 3.4. Percentage of retail food sales in supermarkets, 1970–2000 (from UK Meat and Livestock Commission).


Importance of adding value, developing new markets and Farm Assurance schemes

When producers have no financial involvement in processing and adding value to their raw material, they are vulnerable to the price changes resulting from cheaper imports. There is now great interest in ways of them becoming involved further along the supply chain. Producers can share in the added value generated beyond the farm gate through:

1. Collective arrangements with other producers to supply a standard animal type to processors linked to a particular retailer. Examples are Tesco Producer clubs, Waitrose Lamb contracts, ABP-Sainsburys.

2. Local arrangements between producer and abattoir, linked to Farmers Markets, Farm Shops or traditional butchers.

3. Regional products, e.g. Somerset Levels Organic Meat Producers, Herdwick Lamb.

Producing the right type of animal/carcass for a particular retailer as a member of a ‘producer club’ is likely to lead to a higher price and a more secure future than selling speculatively through the live animal auction market, where prices fluctuate much more. Some producers may link up with a local abattoir to supply specialist butchers with products likely to appeal to consumers, such as grass-fed local breeds. The Traditional Breeds Meat Marketing Company markets traditional British breeds of cattle, sheep and pigs in this way.

A recent development is the formation of Farm Assurance schemes organized by producers. These ensure high standards of animal welfare and food safety and show consumers that meat is being properly produced.

Animal welfare standards as a point of difference in meat marketing

Animal welfare standards are of great interest to European consumers and can be used to increase the value of products. A good example is free-range rather than battery-produced eggs. In pigs, the interest in outdoor production is connected with the assumption that animal welfare is likely to be better in pigs housed outdoors. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) initiated the Freedom Foods scheme, which emphasizes animal welfare in the marketing of meat. As with other issues affecting consumer preferences, the extent to which people are prepared to pay significantly higher prices for higher animal welfare standards is debatable.

Organic meat production

The market for organic produce in the UK and other countries is growing rapidly at present. Until recently, organic meat was not widely available, but now demand in the UK is outstripping supplies. In 2002, 38% of organic meat was imported from abroad, although low prices were one reason for this. Nevertheless, the price paid for organic meat is likely to be higher than that for the conventional product (Fig. 3.5).

Selling direct or via live auction markets

Involvement of producers with activities further along the supply chain is leading to more direct marketing, i.e. straight to an abattoir/processor rather than via the auction market. Direct marketing is also probably advantageous for animal welfare, since the practice of trading groups of animals leads to stresses of various kinds. In pigs, over 99% of UK animals are sold direct to processors and this has been the case for many years. In cattle, about 20% are currently sold live through auction markets, down from 37% in 2000. Higher numbers of sheep are sold through auction markets, since integrated arrangements with processors and retailers are less developed than for other species.


Fig. 3.5. Conventional image and organic image UK meat prices (data taken from UK Meat and Livestock Commission, 2003a).

The processed and food service sectors

The meat processing companies illustrated in Table 3.2 are involved mainly in fresh meat slaughtering, primary butchery and the supply of cuts and joints to retailers. However, an increasing trend is for them to be involved in further processing, including the production of ready meals. This area is also the province of specialist food manufacturing companies such as Northern Foods. Processed meats and ready meals supply the increasing demand for meals prepared simply and quickly (convenience food). People today are less prepared to spend the time required to cook a traditional ‘meat and two veg’ meal, especially during the week. An advantage of processed meats to the supply chain as a whole is their higher value. The market for processed beef (for example) has a much higher value per kg than has fresh beef (Table 3.5) and is growing more rapidly. In 2000 and 2003, the retail market for fresh beef remained constant but that for fresh processed beef increased by 17%. Even more marked were the increases in the food service sector, reflecting an increase in the number of meals eaten outside the home. For example, between 2000 and 2003, food service sales of beef increased by 56% and 52% for the fresh/frozen and processed sectors, respectively.

Table 3.5. Weight and value of different markets for beef, 2003 (data taken from UK Meat and Livestock Commission).


Weight (1000 tonnes)

Value (£m)

Retail fresh/frozen



Retail processed



Food service fresh/frozen



Food service processed




This chapter shows that the UK meat industry, in common with meat industries in other countries, is changing to reflect the shift in consumer preferences and the globalization of meat production driven by low production costs in some countries. A direct result of globalization is lower prices.

Contraction in the numbers of meat producers (farmers), processors and retail outlets has coincided with a large increase in their size, especially for processors and retailers.

Animal welfare and food safety are of great importance to consumers and perceptions about those issues affect consumption. The BSE episode caused an immediate decline in beef consumption, although this has now recovered to pre-BSE levels. The meat industry is responding in various positive ways to these challenges. Producers who are involved in some part of the ‘added value’ stages of meat production beyond the farm gate are in a better position than those who rely on the standard market price. Farm shops and farmers markets involving slaughtering by small abattoirs in localities are one way to add value. Production of particular kinds of animals (e.g. breeds) fed special diets in an integrated arrangement between a processor and retailer is another. This ensures a reliable market for the animals and sometimes a higher price. Farm Assurance schemes are a proactive response by producers to consumer’s concerns. These guarantee high standards of animal welfare and food safety. Other trends are towards organic meat production and meat meals that can be prepared more quickly.


UK Meat and Livestock Commission (2003a) Meat Demand Trends. Milton Keynes, UK.

UK Meat and Livestock Commission (2003b) Pig Yearbook. Milton Keynes, UK.

3.2 Construction of Abattoirs


Designing and constructing abattoirs involves a team of specialist architects, engineers and construction personnel, amongst others. The main function of the Official Veterinary Surgeon is normally regarded as being to audit the abattoir, post-construction. At this stage, problems which were not anticipated when abattoir structure was built may be highlighted. However, preferably, Official Veterinary Surgeons should provide professional advice encompassing the principles of hygienic meat production and the best methods to achieve this, even during the planning stages. Aspects to be addressed during planning include location, provision of services, layout, materials and equipment.


Location is the first consideration during planning for abattoir construction. Land section size required for abattoirs, depending on their capacity, is approximately: 1–2 acres for small abattoirs (slaughtering >30,000 animal units per year), 2–4 acres for medium abattoirs (>50,000/year) and 4–6 acres for large abattoirs (>100,000/year). In the UK, one animal unit equals one adult bovine, two pigs, three calves or five sheep/goats.

The abattoir must not, itself, contaminate the environment. Odour emissions must be anticipated using a worst-case scenario with the prevailing winds. Odour emissions will probably cause more nuisance during summer, as the ambient temperature is higher and local inhabitants live and work more frequently outdoors or have open windows. Urban populations may be less tolerant to animal-related odours than are agricultural populations. Traffic density and flow in the area must be studied; sufficient road capacity must be available. Noise will need careful consideration, as early-morning noise from stock and/or trucks will occur.

The abattoir itself must be protected from contamination from the surrounding environment; industrial zones may contain spatial or temporal pockets with high air pollution levels, where safe meat production could be compromised. Pest control is a requirement not just in abattoirs, but in the surrounds as well. Abattoirs should not be sited in flood-prone areas, because of risks from contamination of the abattoir itself and/or its water supply, additionally because effluent discharge is likely to be simple- and more cost-effective in non-flood zones.

Water supply

The availability of potable water required for abattoir operation must be ensured, as large volumes are necessary: approximately 10,000 litres per tonne of final carcass, although this depends on the technology used. Effluent-based liquid wastes are to be removed via drainage networks into the sewerage system, or into in-plant treatment areas (lagoons, sedimentation ponds, etc.), so suitable facilities must be provided. Solid wastes include inedible tissues, gut contents, lairage waste and bedding, which must be stored in suitable on-site areas before disposal.

Animal transport

Animals are transported to the abattoir by various vehicles and then unloaded; for details on animal transport see Chapter 4.1. At the site, a vehicle cleaning/disinfection station must be provided for sanitation of vehicles before they leave the premises.


Within the buildings, the lairage capacity must be sufficient to hold at least one day’s supply of livestock, in case the production line has to be stopped. Once stock is on the premises, it cannot be normally returned to the farm. The lairage should allow recovery of animals from transport stress, normal animal behaviour and interaction, and also effective ante-mortem inspection by the Official Veterinary Surgeon. On average, bovines require 2.3 to 2.8 m2 pen space per animal; bacon pigs (light) require 0.6 m2; while heavy pigs, sheep and calves require 0.7 to 0.8 m2 per animal. Animals must be able to eat, drink, lie down and move comfortably, thus meeting their welfare needs. Space must be available for droving and sorting of animals, and for cleaning. Sharp corners should be avoided within the lairage area. An isolation pen with separate drainage must be provided within the lairage area to separate unwell stock or suspect stock that require in-depth inspection. The lairage area is classified as dirty, and must be physically separated from the slaughter line.


The stunning box and equipment is tailored for each animal species; provision of suitable constraints facilitates best stunning practice. Stunned animals must be rapidly bled and shackled, fulfilling animal welfare requirements (see Chapter 5.1). Blood is usually collected using contained drainage or a receptacle, but special equipment (hollow knives connected with tubing to a sealed tank) is required if blood is intended for human consumption. The stunning box must be physically separated from the carcass dressing area.


The layout of each abattoir depends primarily on the flow of operations. During construction planning, the consultant Official Veterinary Surgeon must have knowledge of the hygienic flow of operations for each species to be slaughtered. Within the slaughterline for each species, different operations must be physically separated into clean and dirty areas, and this must be extended to include staff and airflow. The guiding principle is that edible tissue, or paths of their movement, should not cross any dirty area. The only individual to move between clean and dirty areas is the Official Veterinary Surgeon, who may conduct both ante-mortem and post-mortem inspection; but this include between-areas sanitation. Within clean areas, there is a requirement for any dirty materials (e.g. digestive tract) to be removed from the space as quickly as possible.

The design of the carcass dressing area depends primarily on the animal species to be slaughtered and the technology selected. Floor/wall intersections should not be 90°, as right-angle joints are difficult to clean and sanitize effectively, but should be smoothly arced. Surfaces coming into contact with edible tissues must be capable of being sterilized; this is achieved normally by hot water (at 82°C), effectively killing most vegetative bacteria, but not spores and prions. Planning for multi-species abattoirs must allow separate lines for each species to be slaughtered. Separation is ideally physical, with completely separate lines and equipment. Nonetheless, species separation can be improvised in smaller abattoirs by temporal separation of slaughter for different animal species. Separate containers for edible and non-edible tissues are required within the slaughterhall, and these must be dedicated and easily identifiable. Separate rooms must be provided for gut separation and processing. At each workstation along the slaughterline, appropriately located washing stations and knife sterilizers must be provided.

Meat inspection

Adequate facilities for meat inspection must be provided, including means of approaching carcasses and organs during inspection, as well as appropriate facilities, including good lighting, washing stations, knife sterilizers, separate room for retained meat, office, etc. Lighting, measured at 0.9–1.5 m height, should be ≥540 lux at the inspection points, ≥200 lux in work rooms, and ≥110 lux in other rooms.

Meat refrigeration

The chill capacity must be related to the slaughter capacity of the plant, and must be sufficient to lower the temperature within the specified time. Chilling of meat is primarily conducted to limit bacterial growth, but also to facilitate normal post-mortal processes in the meat. Naturally, some of the bacteria which contaminate meat may be pathogenic, so effective meat chilling (carcasses ≤7°C, offal ≤3°C) is required to limit their proliferation. The layout of the chillers is critical, since positioning of rails must allow carcass separation, while positioning of the blowers must ensure the air is circulated evenly throughout the room. In a full chiller, all carcasses must be effectively and evenly chilled, and their surfaces dried. During chilling, it is essential to avoid condensation on the carcass surfaces, as it can enable bacteria to grow. Also, condensate from chiller/blower and rail lubricants must not drip on carcasses. In addition, the chiller doors must be effectively sealed. Keeping the doors closed and sealed helps maintenance of correct temperature, and also reduces moisture condensation from warm outside air on the carcass surfaces.

Meat cutting/boning

The meat-cutting and deboning areas involve extensive meat handling and resulting microbial cross-contamination. Therefore, meat leaving these areas carries higher levels of bacteria than meat in the preceding chiller areas. The temperature in meat-cutting areas should be (≤12°C) low in order to control bacterial proliferation. However, it is not practical to debone meat in a room much below 12°C, due to chill stress of the workers and loss of their manipulative abilities. Also, in cold rooms of 4°C and below, nasal discharges from personnel can be more frequent/prolific. Because each piece of meat contacts many surfaces (conveyor belts, cutting boards), these must be designed to allow effective cleaning and sanitation. Butchery and wrapping areas must be separate from storage room for packaging materials, as they are a source of bacterial contamination.

Materials and equipment

Materials and equipment used in the abattoir should be considered from the point of view of controlling contamination. Materials should be as durable as possible and be capable of being cleaned and sanitized effectively. However, a frequent drawback of such materials is that they tend to be more expensive than other available choices. Both materials and equipment should have smooth, impermeable surfaces. Concrete, tiles or modern, composite moulded plastic walling is often used. Surfaces should not be subject to cracking, and should have as few joints as possible. Cracked surfaces and joints are difficult to clean effectively, which will make later dirt removal and sanitation difficult. Floors of lairages and slaughterhalls must be easily drained, so that pooling of water and liquid wastes does not occur, with a gradient of not less than 1 in 50. Drains should be covered with screens (holes of 4–6 mm diameter) and located at the rate of at least one per 40 m2.

In general, equipment used within abattoirs should be considered by the same principles as materials and surfaces (discussed above). Equipment must be composed of smooth materials; rough materials are more likely to be harbour organic matter and microorganisms. Abattoir equipment is mostly manufactured from stainless steel or other non-oxidizing metal alloys. Machinery must be easy to dismantle, enabling cleaning and sanitation of all parts. Water from wash stations should not drain onto floors as this is conducive to the spread of contamination, but must be ducted directly into the sewerage system. Separate and identifiable equipment is required for inedible and condemned animal parts/tissues.

Further Reading

Anon. (1984) A Guide to Construction, Equipment and Layout. USDA–FSIS, Agricultural Handbook No. 570, Washington, DC.

Anon. (2004) Good Practices for Meat Industry. FAO Animal Production and Health Manual. FAO, Rome.

3.3 Water Quality and Sanitation in the Food Industry


This chapter aims to outline controls on the hygienic quality of water used within the food industry, and then to examine the processes involved in managing cleansing and sanitation operations in food premises.

Water Quality

As is well known, water is a colourless liquid at atmospheric pressure, between the temperatures of 0°C and 100°C. In liquid form it is partially ionized into hydrogen (H+) and hydroxyl (OH) ions. Natural water contains many dissolved substances and minute particles in suspension. Water for human consumption can be obtained from a number of sources, for example a natural spring, a reservoir, a well or a borehole. Public water supplies undergo a process of purification, which may involve filtration, the addition of certain permitted antimicrobial chemicals – for example fluoride – distillation or ozone treatment (which primarily aims to eliminate Cryptosporidia). After purification, the water is delivered through a closed system of pipes, to prevent recontamination, to the point of use. After use, waste water is collected through the waste water drainage or sewerage system to a treatment plant. There, it undergoes a system of sedimentation, filtration and digestion to reduce the biological oxygen demand of the effluent, and to render it safe to be returned to the environment.

Water to be used for drinking and within the food industry must be potable (drinkable, from the Latin ‘potabilis’ or ‘potare’ – to drink), and must achieve certain standards to be considered such. These standards are laid down in national and community legislation, and cover the organoleptic, physical and chemical qualities of the water, as well as the microbiological status and the absence of undesirable and toxic compounds. All water supplies must be regularly monitored to ensure that they meet the requirements of potability. In the UK, this may be carried out by the water supply company in the case of public water supplies, or by the local authority in the case of private water supplies.

Water systems in food premises

In food-producing premises, all workstations should be provided with sufficient clean, wholesome water to allow personnel to satisfactorily clean themselves and their equipment whenever necessary. Potable water should be used for nearly all purposes, but certain functions, such as fire-fighting or the production of steam, or within cooling towers, may use water from sources that are not monitored, or may not be potable. If such water is used in a food premises, the outlets for such water should be clearly marked, to prevent its being used on food, hands or equipment, and the circulation system for such water should be designed in such a way that there is no risk of contamination of potable water. From henceforth in this chapter, reference to water should be taken to mean potable water.

The distribution system for water should be closed, to prevent contamination, and constructed of materials that will not corrode or taint the water. Blind ends on disused side-branches should not be present, as these are likely to hold stagnant water, where microbial contamination may persist. Within a food premises, the hygiene of the water system should be monitored on a regular basis. The manager of the business should keep a water distribution plan (Fig. 3.6) showing the water outlets, and also designated sampling points, which will each be sampled in rotation, ideally on a monthly basis. Carefully chosen sampling points are essential in both verifying the suitability of the water used in the premises and in locating the origin of hygiene failures.

Water sampling and analysis

When the distribution system is sampled, the correct technique is vital to prevent contamination of the sample, and also to ensure that the sample represents the contents of the distribution system, and not just the cleanliness of the outlet. Ideally, special sampler taps should be fitted at the sampling points, which should be adjacent to water outlets. Where special sampling taps are fitted, they can be heat-sterilized using a hand-held blow-torch after external dirt and grease have been removed. After heat sterilization, the tap should be opened and run to waste for 2–3 minutes before collection of the sample. Where the sample is to be taken from a standard water outlet, for example a tap or hose, heat sterilization cannot be used as this would destroy the rubber or plastic washers within the outlet. In this case, after removing external dirt and grease, the outlet should be sterilized by the application of a 1:10 solution of commercial hypochlorite (giving a concentration of 1% free chlorine). This solution must be left for 2–3 minutes to achieve full sterilization of the outlet, and then the water must be allowed to run to waste for 5 minutes, to rinse off any residual chlorine which would affect the analysis of the sample, before the sample is collected. The sample should be collected without splashing (which could result in contamination of the sample) into a sterile bottle containing sodium thiosulphate. This chemical is added to neutralize chlorine, which may be present in the water, if the supply has been chlorinated, or may be a residue of chemical sterilization of the outlet. It is important to neutralize chlorine, as it will interfere with microbial growth and give falsely low counts.


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Dec 15, 2017 | Posted by in GENERAL | Comments Off on Meat Industry

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