Known by different names around the world, a beef plant is a facility where various types of meat are processed and packaged for sale to commercial customers. Commonly referred to as a meat packing plant in the United States, this facility is also known as a freezing works or a meat plant in other countries. Most meat plants operate in a manner that conforms to government regulations that are designed to make sure the products sold by the plant are safe for human consumption.
The typical beef plant receives meat from a slaughterhouse, although it is not unusual for the plant to include its own facilities for slaughtering. The fresh meat is sectioned, with the portions considered acceptable for human use routed through an inspection and grading process. The remaining sections of meat are also inspected and graded, but with a different set of criteria. Meat not considered appropriate for human consumption is often processed for use in products for animals, such as dog food.
Once the meat is sectioned, inspected, and graded, the products are packaged for sale to a customer. For the most part, a beef plant sells to commercial customers who in turn will take the packaged product and break it down into smaller packages for sale to consumers. However, it is not unusual for large supermarket chains in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom to own their own plants. When this is the case, the meats may be packaged in smaller units at the beef plant rather than at the supermarket.
It is interesting to note that a beef plant processes more than beef. Meat plants of this type will also process pork and poultry. Depending on the country where the plant is located, a number of specialty meat products may be produced using different types of fowl, venison, or goat. Kosher meat plants will limit their production to include only portions of animals that are considered clean according to kosher dietary laws.
Most countries establish standards that any beef plant operating within their borders must follow. Meats must meet minimum standards related to quality, hygiene, freezer temperatures, and other factors considered to be necessary in order to ensure that the products can be consumed safely. Regular inspections by government authorities, as well as quality processes and procedures implemented by the meat packing plants themselves, help to maintain the quality and safety of meat products from one year to the next.