Report on the production process of beef
It is still early in the morning as the 15-ton truck reverses into the livestock abattoir’s loading platform. The bulls have travelled on the cattle truck between the farm and the slaughterhouse for two and a half hours, or some 80 kilometres. The transporter, in possession of the mandatory transport permit, knows about cattle. He even grew up on a farm himself.
The drivers of animal transports must have a permit for this kind of work, otherwise they’re not allowed to transport the animals. “Tranquillity is paramount,” says our driver while he unloads the bulls. A supervising veterinarian examines each animal individually while they are being unloaded and determines that they are all healthy. The small herd is driven to the stable first, where they are allowed to settle down. After two hours, the herd of cattle are led to the stunning box. One by one, they enter the box. The door closes. The animal has to stand very quietly and must not move its head. The animal is stunned by an expert employee using a captive bolt stun gun.
The box then pushes out the stunned animal. An employee checks the eyelid reflex. When there is no reflex, the animal is deeply sedated. The sedated animal is killed by stabbing it. Up to this point in the process, steady handling of the animals had top priority.
After this, hygiene and health aspects are most important in order to be able to guarantee the production of high-quality food. First, an independent body registers the data of the ear tags that every animal is wearing in the computer and links them to the slaughter hook numbers. That way, every carcass can be traced back to the livestock farmer.
The carcasses, which are hung by their legs, are transported along a rail. The heads are cut off. Conveyor belt workers now cut loose the skin in one smooth motion. The skin with hair is removed in a number of steps. These are valuable. The hair-on hides are made into leather in tanneries. The gastrointestinal tract is removed hygienically. The red organs, or offal, are cut out. Finally, a large saw cuts the carcass in two halves.
In the next step, an official independent veterinarian and inspector on the inspection platform checks whether the animal was healthy. The experts check the carcass and all organs for abnormalities. Any abnormalities are registered electronically. Further checks, for instance for antibiotics residues, are carried out by means of random samples.
It is not just the weight that determines which price the supplier will get. The experts inspect the body parts, looking at the fat/meat ratio, muscle development and category (e.g. calf’s meat, bull’s meat, cow’s meat) to determine the quality classification of the carcass. Next, the supplier is paid.
By putting a stamp on every carcass, the supervising veterinarian confirms that the meat is suitable for consumption. After this, a label is attached to the carcass. This contains all key information on provenance, weight and quality level, as well as relevant slaughter data.
The carcasses are moved to the cold store, where they are cooled from a body temperature of 37 degrees Celsius to below 7 degrees. Otherwise, the meat cannot be processed. Then the carcasses are quartered. The hindquarters provide the quality cuts, from which steak, fillet and braising meat are cut. The front quarters are ideal for the production of minced meat. Cutting is heavy and precise manual work.
The beef is taken directly to the ageing chamber or vacuum-sealed, packaged and stored in a cool place. Unlike pork, beef has to age. Only then will it be suitable for consumption and will it become tender and juicy. When the cuts have reached optimal ageing, they are ready to be shipped. It is not far from the cold stores to the loading platform. Here, the meat is checked again. The product is only released when it has been established that the temperature of the meat is below seven degrees.
Finally, a state-of-the-art computer-controlled logistics process guarantees that the products arrive at the customer via the fastest route.
Photo report of the production of beef