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Processing Facility

At the time of slaughter, the cattle receive a final check to ensure they are healthy and not stressed. It is important, before processing, to rest and relax the animal if they have travelled to the abattoir.

 

Every animal has a certain amount of energy contained in its muscles in the form of glycogen.  This glycogen that is built up in the body, through a high energy diet, can be depleted via pre-slaughter stress.  After slaughter, the glycogen is converted into lactic acid which causes the pH levels in the meat to fall.  If not enough glycogen is present prior to slaughter, lactic acid production will be insufficient and the pH levels won’t drop to the required level.  This will cause the meat to be dark, firm and dry. Stressed animals can produce meat that dark, firm and dry. Otherwise known as Dark cutting. And then have a hyperlink to dark cutting with the info about glycogen/lactic acid etc.

Often cattle are moved into a shower area where they receive a final wash. This helps to prevent contamination of the meat or the inside of the abattoir.  

When ready for processing, the animal is walked up the race to the stunning area in a quiet and orderly manner to minimise stress. The identification of the animal is recorded by scanning the National Livestock Identification tag in the animals ear.   

The animal is stunned in a fast, painless way to ensure the animal is unconscious before  stopping the blood flow to the brain. The only difference between Halal-slaughter method and non-Halal is that Halal uses a reversible stunning method, while conventional slaughter uses an irreversible stunning method. Also before Halal slaughter, the invocation of Allah's name over the animal is required.

Electrical stimulation is used in some processing plants at this point.  Electrical stimulation is a widely used method of improving the tenderness of meat.  

An electrical current causes the carcass muscles to contract and hastens the conversion of muscle to meat. The pH level of the carcase drops more quickly than usual and rigor mortis sets in faster than in non-stimulated carcasses.

The hide is carefully removed.  To minimise meat contamination, the outer side of the hide must never touch the carcass surface. A mechanical hidepuller machine is widely used to effectively peel  the hide away from the carcase and ensure minimal contact between the hide and carcase surface to eliminate the risk of meat contamination.

The butcher then performs what is called a ‘belly rip’; the opening up of the carcase for the removal of the offal and other organs. In the Australian processing system everything from the carcase is used, including muscle, offal, co-products and by-products. 

Edible offal most commonly derived from a beef carcase are: Tongue, Tripe, Cheek, Liver, Tail, Tendon,Sweetbreads, Kidney

Once the internal organs are removed the carcass is split in half. This is done using a brisket splitter along the backbone.  Splitting the carcase in two makes it easier to remove the spinal cord and any remaining organs, inspect, store, and then break down the carcase. 

When the carcase has been split the Ossification score can be determined. Ossification is one of many carcase attributes used by Meat Standards Australia™ (MSA) to determine the MSA™ grade.   Other attributes include breed content, meat colour, fat depth, maturity and ultimate pH. 

The animal is then weighed and tagged for easy identification and moved into refrigeration.  The Australian Standards for the Hygienic Production and Transportation of Meat and Meat Products for Human Consumption specify the internal temperature of the carcase must reach no more than 7°C within 24 hours.