What types of defects may be found in meat and offal during packaging?

A ‘defect’ is anything that will make the product unacceptable to the customer.

Defects can be divided into two types:

  • contaminants or things that spoil the meat
  • cuts of meat that do not meet labelling or customer specifications.


Contamination is the presence of any foreign matter on the meat. It includes ingesta, faeces, dust, grease, bone chips, bruising, pathology including disease, an abscess, pieces of metal, plastic, nylon or any other objectionable materials.

Contamination can be the result of:

  • poor dressing procedures on the slaughter floor, e.g. stomach contents spilt on carcase
  • dust and grease from rails or equipment
  • poorly maintained equipment, e.g. chipped or damaged meat tubs or frayed conveyor belts
  • dropping the meat on the floor
  • loose items including tools of trade.

Contamination is spotted by visual examination and, in some large establishments, by the use of metal detectors.

Product not meeting labelling or customer specifications

You need to know how to recognise the cut of meat you are inspecting. For example, a leg of lamb may be whole, bone in, boneless, shank off, chump or thick end off, fat trimmed or cut into steaks. You must check that no muscle, sinew or bone is left that does not fit the product or customer’s specifications. You should receive this information from your supervisor. There may also be a picture chart available, a description on a whiteboard or the AUS-MEAT manual, the Handbook of Australian Meat.

Check the product against the specifications and the labelling on the package. If they do not match either one you should treat the product as a defect.

What workplace practices do you use to correct defective product?

Your work station is an important part of the packing operation’s HACCP program (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points). This program should include the following procedures:

  • identify the type of defect, i.e. contamination or cut out of specification.

If the defect is contamination, you should, depending on your work instruction:

  • transfer the meat to the ‘dropped meat’ table or other specified area, placing the contaminant uppermost to make trimming easier; a drop meat table is a clearly marked trimming area separated from the normal production flow and covered with a polythene sheet
  • depending on the company protocol, discard the contamination, return them to the slicer for trimming, or provide it to the QA supervisor
  • wash your hands and return the meat for re‑inspection
  • remove and replace the polythene sheet
  • sterilise any equipment used
  • wash your hands again to eliminate cross‑contamination.

It may also be necessary to sanitise the area ready for the next defect.

If the defect is a cut out-of-specification, as per workplace procedure, you should:

  • remove it from the production flow
  • return the cut to the trimmer or slicer for re‑work
  • re‑inspect before packing.

You should report repeated or consistent defects to your supervisor. In turn, your supervisor should report any changes in specifications to you.

Why must defects be removed from meat and offal before packing the product?

Defects are removed to maintain the quality of the product. It is important to inspect and find defects before they are packaged. This makes it easy to remove them.

If you allow defective meat and offal to be packaged, you risk:

  • rejection by the customer
  • food poisoning or injury to the consumer
  • rejection of the product by inspection authorities, e.g. Department of Agriculture and AUS‑MEAT
  • costly re‑work if defects are found at the sampling points, as product has already been processed and packaged
  • a loss in yield if defects which can be repeated are not reported.