Quality Assurance System

What is Quality Assurance?

Quality Assurance is based on preventing problems as well as checking the final product.
All meat processors:

  • receive raw material, carcase of livestock
  • process it, then
  • load it out for sale.

Raw material – processing – load out

Quality Assurance systems try to stop problems happening in all three phases by having:

  • specifications for carcases or livestock; a quality product cannot be produced from a raw material which is not suitable
  • detailed instructions for each worker in the processing areas; if each worker knows what to do in their job, problems can be prevented in the first place
  • checks on the final product.

If we control these three steps we can make sure that the product meets the specifications.  Quality Assurance systems not only include checking the final product quality, but go further to make sure each worker knows how to play their part in producing a quality product.

How does a Quality Assurance system work?

Meat processors have quality systems to ensure that they produce a safe food product which meets a set of specifications at all times and at the lowest possible cost.
The Quality Assurance system will help do this by:

  • putting in procedures that help stop problems happening in the first place
  • checking the product.

Quality Assurance systems achieve this by making sure:

  • all employees have clearly defined jobs and responsibilities
  • all employees have the training and skills to do quality work.

As well as controlling how the product is produced, the system has to control the standard of the inputs, the hygiene of the plant and the storage of meat products.
Therefore in a Quality Assurance system we also need:

  • the specifications for the raw materials
  • procedures for plant cleaning and maintenance
  • procedures for your personal hygiene
  • planning by management
  • procedures and standards for how we store raw materials and finished product.

All these things have an effect on the quality of the product we sell to external customers.

What are the main elements of a Quality Assurance system?

The work of every employee in meat processing work is controlled and detailed in the Quality Assurance manual. Workers in meat processing plants need to know the parts of the manual which affect their day to day activities. These include:

  • Standard Operating Procedures
  • work instructions or task descriptions.

You also need to understand:

  • how the quality of the product and process is monitored
  • how the system is audited.

What are Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)?

SOPs provide instructions about:

  • personal hygiene
  • cleaning and sanitation
  • waste disposal
  • water supply
  • pest and vermin control
  • chemicals including additives.

When you follow the procedures for these activities you create a clean and healthy environment to process meat.

Plants can also have SOPs to cover:

  • maintenance, including preventative maintenance
  • livestock, including animal care and animal welfare
  • slaughter
  • boning
  • refrigeration
  • product traceability and recall
  • management review
  • internal audit
  • training

As an employee in a meat processing plant you must know standard operating procedures (SOPs) for your area. Failure to follow SOPs can jeopardise the safety of the product.

What are work instructions or task descriptions?

Work instructions or task descriptions are specific and clear instructions for performing each job or task in the plant. Work instructions are designed to prevent problems in processing meat.

Workplace instructions:

  • describe the tasks to be performed
  • identify the order, if necessary, in which operations are to be performed
  • detail what should be done if errors occur
  • highlight the most important part of the task, if any
  • define the standard the job has to be done to.

Failure to follow work instructions can represent a real workplace health and food safety hazard. By following work instructions or task descriptions each worker makes a contribution to the quality of the product.

When work instructions are being developed they should:

  • be developed with the assistance of the people doing the job
  • be the best way of doing the job
  • be written in workplace language.