Why do we need to produce a quality product?

We expect that everything we buy has quality built in. We tend to take this for granted.
But when we notice that quality is not there we can feel frustrated, disappointed and angry. Without external customers buying our products and coming back to buy more, you would not have a job. Your company only stays in business while it meets our external customer’s needs for products of an acceptable quality.  The opposite is also true. If we do not provide quality meat products our external customers will find another meat processor and our company will go broke.

Getting it right first time inside the company is also important. If quality product does not leave each work area it has to be trimmed or reworked. Sometimes it is downgraded or condemned. This extra work means increased cost for the company and less profit. Meatworks in this country run on very small profit margins. They cannot afford to have additional costs, especially costs that can be easily avoided.  Across the whole of Australia you will come across abattoirs and boning rooms closed forever. Many of these plants closed because they could not produce a quality product at a price that allowed them to earn a profit

What are the costs of not producing a quality product?

While quality systems cost a lot to set up at first, the cost is an investment. The long term success of a meat company is totally dependent on it producing a quality product.
If we do not produce a quality product first time then there are additional costs which might include:

  • reworking the product
  • reinspecting the product
  • downgrading or condemning the product
  • downtime while major quality problems are investigated and solved.

There are also big costs for a company that does not supply a quality product every time.

If a company’s product does not meet the specifications then it will have the cost of:

  • rejected product
  • refunds
  • investigations and arguments about complaints
  • recall of faulty product
  • lost customers because they have lost faith in the product.

Specifications and quality meat products

How do we know if we are producing a quality product?

Quality is defined by what the:

  • customer wants
  • company wants to provide
  • government demands for this type of processing.

All the things that these groups want in a product are called a specification. Specifications are how a company defines the quality of its product. A meat processor is also a customer for its raw materials, packaging and cleaning chemicals. The processor will therefore have specifications for these products.One of McDonald’s selling points is that their Big Mac product will look and taste the same wherever you are in the world. McDonalds have a set of specifications to make sure of this. Their specifications even include the exact amount of meat in each patty. These specifications ensure consistency. The customer always knows what they will get for their money.

The company you work for has its own specifications written down for each product. The specifications tell your external customers what they can expect from each of your products. In many plants the AUS-MEAT standards are used for product specifications.
Once we have written down specifications we can measure the product we have against those specifications. We can work out if what we are producing is up to standard. Any meat product that does not meet specifications is called Out of Specification or OOS.
At any time we can check to see if the product we are making is within specifications. We do this by taking samples of what we are making and checking them against the specifications for that product.

In general there are three types of specifications used in meat processing establishments.

Raw material specification

Raw materials for an abattoir are the livestock. Specifications for livestock might include breed, condition, age and weight.
Raw materials for a boning room are carcases. Carcase specifications might include sex, age, weight and fat depth.
Chemicals like detergents and sanitisers have specifications which have to be approved by Government agencies like Department of Agriculture.

Packaging specification

Specifications which outline the company’s and government requirements for packaging materials are given to packaging suppliers. Packaging specifications usually refer to what the package is made from, its size, its quality, its availability and its cost.

Finished product specifications

These specifications are used to make sure we meet the external customer needs. They can include species, age and muscle group temperature of the product. These are often checked at load out.

How do government regulations affect meat processing?

All meat processing companies must conform to both state and federal laws about the quality of their product and the way in which it is produced. Government regulations cover animal welfare, food safety and trade descriptions.
The laws are designed to protect the external customer. Any meat processing company that does not conform to legislation leaves itself open to prosecution or fines.
If a company does not meet its legal requirements it is not producing a quality product.
Quality meat products meet specifications and are produced in a safe way to meet Australian Standards.