Australian processing facilities operate under strict Federal Government legislation. The humane treatment of cattle and sheep during the slaughter process in the abattoir is paramount, as is the focus on maintaining quality and safety throughout. All Australian processing plants are required to meet rigorous hygiene and safety standards.
The Australian meat processing sector is a world leader in beef and lamb dressing and fabrication. Australian abattoirs employ the latest technologies to ensure continued improvement in production efficiency, without sacrificing superior levels of meat safety.
While plants differ in design (depending on the variety of markets they service and the species they process), each utilises the most up to date technology to ensure efficiency, safety and reliability.
The animal moves into a shower area for a final wash ensuring they are clean and to prevent contamination of the meat or the abattoir.
It then continues up an ergonomically designed race, designed to a specific Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals and is handled in a quiet and orderly manner to minimise stress. When the animal reaches the end of the race it is closed off to both the inside of the abattoir and the other animals waiting to be processed.
The animal is then quickly and painlessly stunned to ensure it is unconscious during the first cut which bleeds the animal, stopping blood flow to the brain. Bleeding ends the animal’s life with minimal damage to the carcase and quickly removes blood from the carcase.
At this point, some plants use electrical stimulation – a widely used method of improving meat tenderness. An electrical current causes the carcase 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 carcases.
The hide is then carefully removed by making cuts at the legs and then following the natural seam along to the flank, up the back and off the rump.
Next the carcase is opened up for the removal of the offal and other internal 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 is tongue, tripe, cheek, liver, tail, tendons, heart and kidney.
Once the internal organs are removed the body is split in two using a brisket splitter. The operator works facing the back of the carcase, splitting it down the backbone. Splitting the carcase in two makes it easier to remove the spine and any remaining organs, inspect, store, and then further break down the carcase.
When the carcase has been split, the Ossification Range 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, meat colour, fat depth, maturity and ultimate pH.
The carcase is then sprayed down to remove any bone dust then 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.