Handling and storing the product

The meat product has to be handled with care after it leaves the processing area.

 What risks of contamination are there for carcases after dressing?


The carcase pushed off the slaughter floor can still be contaminated by:

  • being dropped off the rail
  • being brushed up against the walls
  • the carcase pushers not having good personal hygiene.


Temperature is one of the abattoir’s main weapons in controlling bacteria growth. Carcases must be put into the freezers or chillers as soon as possible. The quicker the surface temperature gets below 4°C the less the chances of bacteria growing.

If carcases are packed too tightly into a chiller, then the chilled air can not circulate properly and hot air pockets form. The temperature of the carcases does not drop quickly and bacteria can multiply. This has a dramatic impact on the shelf life of the product. The temperature of carcases is checked regularly.

Boned meat and offal is packed in cardboard boxes with plastic liners to protect it from contamination. Like carcase meat, it is essential that the meat remain chilled to control growth of bacteria. The temperature of carton meat is carefully checked.

Carton meat is only protected from contamination while the carton is intact. As soon as a hole is made in the carton the product can be contaminated. All companies have a repack procedure to make sure the product leaves the plant protected in a clean undamaged carton.

Pest control

Pests represent a real risk to the food safety of a meat product. Insects such as cockroaches and flies spread bacteria. Blowflies lay maggots in the meat.  Rodents like rats and mice attack the packaging, eat the meat product, leave droppings, spread contamination and destroy insulation and electrical wiring.

Birds on the slaughter floor or in the boning room are a relatively rare problem, but birds nesting and living in covered stockyards are a real problem at some sheds. Their droppings contaminate the stock and the general environment around the plant. Birds can be kept out of nesting and roosting sites by netting. However, getting rid of birds once they are established is a difficult process.

How are they controlled?

Government regulations require all meatworks to have an effective pest control program. All pests can be discouraged by making sure that fat or meat scraps are not left to attract them. The plant should also be kept in good order to make sure there is no place for them to live or hide.

It is important that if you see signs of pests it is reported to the supervisors immediately. Pests in a plant can threaten the operating licence of an abattoir, especially if external reviewers or auditors see the signs. These include droppings, chewed packaging and paper as well as polystyrene leaking from sandwich-board insulation.

All around abattoirs and boning rooms, you will see bait boxes for rodents and/or insects. The poison in these boxes can harm or kill people. It must be kept away from the product and the surfaces that meat comes in contact with. Broken or split bait boxes must be cleaned up and disposed of immediately in accordance with the workplace procedures.

Insects such as flies are kept out of processing areas by draft or air curtains. Meat plants are also periodically ‘fogged’ to control insects such as cockroaches.

Water Quality

Why is water quality important in a meatworks?

Water is used to wash the plant, the equipment, employees and product. If the water has bacteria or dirt in it, the washing process will only spread contamination.

The main way the purity of the water is achieved is by the addition of chlorine. Chlorine kills the bacteria and doesn’t hurt the product or people.

Meatworks use huge quantities of water each day. This costs the company in two ways:

  • the water has to be bought from a council or water authority
  • the water has to be treated after it is used in a series of filters and settling ponds.

What is potable water?

Potable water is water that is fit for humans to drink. It is essentially free of harmful bacteria and will not contaminate the product.

What is recycled water?

Abattoirs use vast amounts of water each day and this waste water has to be treated before it is used for irrigation or before it makes its way into creeks or rivers.

Many plants nowadays recycle water after treatment to reduce the cost of buying water. Recycled water is used in these abattoirs to wash stockyards and sometimes to give stock a preliminary wash.