What are Meat Processors?

Harriette Halepis

Meat processors are factories where animals are slaughtered and turned into meat for human consumption. There are thousands of meat processors across the globe, and nearly every country has a different process for slaughtering animals. Animals that are frequently turned into food include chickens, cattle, sheep, horses, goats, and turkeys.

Meat department at a grocery store.
Meat department at a grocery store.

Slaughterhouses have been in existence for many decades. Nearly every large population that has ever existed had some form of a slaughterhouse. As soon as people began to live together in small spaces, the need for meat began to grow, since farms were not a reality inside of city walls. Today's meat processors are more mechanical than their predecessors, though humans are still an integral part of the slaughter process.

A meat packing plant.
A meat packing plant.

Animals that are to be killed for meat are brought to meat processors from farms. As soon as these animals are unloaded from trucks, they are sent to specially shaped corrals. These corrals are often designed with lots of curves that prevent animals waiting in line from seeing the slaughter of other animals. This is essential, so that animals that are being led to slaughter will not become stressed, nervous, or scared. Otherwise, those animals being pushed toward the "killing floor" would try to reverse direction.

While different countries employ different killing methods, most animals are restrained, stunned with high-voltage equipment, hung upside down and attached to an assembly line hook, and then killed with one swift knife cut to the throat area. Once all of the blood has drained from an animal's body, the head and feet of the animal are cut off.

Then, the hide of the animal is pulled from the skin, the organs are removed, and the body of the animal is inspected carefully. Inspectors make sure that an animal is not diseased or deformed in any manner. In most countries, all animal carcasses must be inspected prior to admitting animal meat into the food chain. On occasion, a carcass may be stunned with an electric prod in order to promote meat tenderness -- this is frequently done when animal meat is tougher than usual.

Finally, an animal's carcass is chilled to eliminate any bacterial growth, and then cut into pieces and boxed. After being boxed, animal meat moves from meat processors to various locations throughout the world. Any animal waste that is not fit for human consumption is sent to a rendering plant where some of this waste is then turned into canned pet foods following specific processing procedures.

Inspectors make sure that an animal is not diseased or deformed in any manner.
Inspectors make sure that an animal is not diseased or deformed in any manner.

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