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Demand for meat continues to grow, not just in traditional markets like north America and Europe, but also in emerging markets. However, tainted and contaminated meat, especially if of uncertain origin, damages the whole industry.

Globally, the meat supply chain needs to win back consumer trust. The most effective and efficient route to success, is to increase and improve transparency at every stage of the meat supply chain, from feed production, through fattening to the slaughterhouse and on to the end customer.

Food Quality and Safety Systems

With the recent meat scandals, pressure from retailers and processors means the supply chain must make its control procedures more robust, improving traceability and accountability. Implementing an appropriate, and effective, food quality management system is surely now a priority. Established, well respected schemes include:

  • GlobalG.A.P.
  • QS (Quality and Safety)
  • IKB

Implemented in-house, audited and certified by a third party, these schemes validate handling, processing, welfare and monitoring procedures and rules. Importantly, the requirement for third party audits and inspections demonstrates to stakeholders, customers and consumers alike, a business’ commitment to safety and quality.

Perhaps most importantly, choose the right scheme and it will cover the whole production process, from feed selection to packaged end product.

On the Farm

The meat supply chain starts not with the birth of new animals, but with feed production. Feed and ingredients testing ensures that livestock and poultry eat feed that is appropriate to their breed and nutritional requirements. It will also verify, that it is not contaminated by disease, chemicals or other foreign bodies. Lay the first building block to successful fattening.

On the livestock/poultry farm, there is clear distinction between the breeding of animals and their rearing. The two processes are, in most cases, separate. At a very young age, animals are moved from the breeding farm to an environment where they are then fed and fattened for sale. In many countries, law regulates the conditions in which animals are reared and fattened, including:

  • Animal welfare.
  • Animal health.
  • Monitoring programmes.
  • Livestock transport.

Regular audits and inspections at every stage, from broiler production, hatcheries and fattening farms, including verification of livestock ensure, plus audit and analysis of final feed at both feed mills and fattening farms, offer retailers reassurance that the supply is trustworthy and robust.

Animal welfare is an issue close to consumers’ hearts. Farms employing effective audit and inspection services will also be subject to spot checks, at short or no notice.

In Transit

Transport between farms and to the slaughterhouse, can be stressful for animals and is potentially fraught with risk. To ensure compliance with animal welfare regulations, quality management schemes, and buyers, insist on independent surveillance. This involves animal welfare experts visiting farms to oversee the round up and loading of livestock/poultry for transportation, to verify the qualifications of handlers and check that there is sufficient floor space and height for the cargo. This activity provides objective confirmation that guidelines are met.

In the Slaughterhouse

On arrival at a slaughterhouse, keeping track of animals, their documentation and health records is vital. Auditors and inspectors work closely with slaughterhouse staff to oversee the unloading process and log each new arrival, checking animal records against delivery notes and official documentation. This service can be extended to enable monitoring throughout the waiting, restraint and stunning areas, thereby demonstrating further compliance with regulations and offering peace of mind to customers and animal welfare experts.

Quality and quantity of carcasses should be independently verified. This ensures the client pays a fair price and the farmer is paid according to the quality of the animals supplied. Pigs are classified by using either a fat-o-meter (FOM) (optical probe, 1 measuring point), or AutoFOM (ultrasound, more than 11,000 measuring points). Cattle, horse and sheep carcasses are graded by eye.

Day to day, compliance with food safety and quality management schemes will require adherence to strict hygiene, veterinary, welfare and administration controls. Regular inspection ensures these controls are implemented, and that staff adhere to them. Veterinary controls may also require blood and tissue testing of animals. A suitably qualified and accredited partner must be engaged to complete this task.

Welfare challenges

Nowadays, consumers are increasingly concerned about the treatment of animals during their lifetime, for example, the common practice of castrating piglets without first stunning them. Consumers are uncomfortable with this. As a result, the market is working to find a solution. One possible way to address this particular issue is to fatten and slaughter uncastrated pigs. However, this creates further challenges, as boars smell and slaughterhouses would have to manage that. Nobody wants to eat pork that has the bad smell of a boar.

It is possible to employ inspectors to identify boar taint, but the practicalities are still being evaluated.

Moving meat to market

Once slaughtered, meat products must be deboned, cut, prepared, packaged and finally packed for transportation. Implementing appropriate food safety systems and employing our expertise for monitoring purposes, ensures that products reach the end customer in perfect condition.

Independent expertise

With more than 130 years experience in agriculture surveillance, SGS is qualified, experienced and equipped to support feed producers, farmers, slaughterhouses and processors. We can provide audit, inspection and certification services at every step.

For further information visit SGS Agriculture and Food or contact:

Thomas Oeltjen
Division Manager
SGS Germany GmbH
Europa Allee 12
D-49685 Emstek
t: +49 4473 9439-56