From field to plate, meat production in the UK… (Day 141)

Rosewood Beef Animals

Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Pet Webinars

With all the recent controversy with food containing stuff it does not advertise I’ve decided that today I should look at the food chain in the UK. You may or may not be aware of the role that veterinary surgeons play within the UK food production chain. Initially working with farmers to ensure that animals are healthy and happy growing right through to inspecting and certifying them as fit to eat at the slaughterhouse. In fact I’ve actually got an exam this Thursday on Milk Hygiene which is all about the milk production process.

Now I am not currently aware of where in the chain the horse meat or pig meat entered it, however I wanted to look at it as a whole system. The UK has some of the highest animal welfare standards (even though some people let the side down) and especially when compared to some other countries. At the start of the production process you have the farmer who is often present at the birth of the animal right through until the time comes to send the animal to slaughter. In this time many farmers make friends with the animal, and when the animal is sick the vet is called in and with cattle animals have yearly tests for TB.

Rosewood grass-fed beef animals in East Yorkshire summer 2011 – http://www.jerseybeef.com

Now when the animal is sent to slaughter it arrives at the abattoir where it is examined by a vet on arrival to ensure there are no clinical signs of disease. After slaughter the carcasses are again inspected by a vet to ensure that there are no diseases within it and the meat then enters the human food chain. Now from the abattoir the meat can either go to a local butcher, back to the farmer for sale themselves, or off to be further processed at a processing plant into various foodstuffs.

If the meat goes to a local butcher or back to the farmer you then have the opportunity to purchase meat knowing exactly where it has come from (Yay!) whist supporting a local business.

Now meat that heads of to a processing plant may join tons of meat that is imported from other countries with lower welfare standards, or less stringent inspection requirements. On arrival depending what the meat is being used for it may be injected with water to add weight and increase the profits (for example: EU wants to re-lable breakfast favourite as ‘bacon with added water’). The UK does however lead the race with the production of mechanically recovered meat (leftover scraps of meat stripped from bones using different pressure systems) having been banned on the 28th April 2012.

Once a product is created or packaged at a processing plant it then heads of to a national distribution centre, where it may be stored before being shipped off to a regional distribution centre. It then may finally make its way onto supermarket shelves to be brought by you. If supermarkets are able to sell meat to you at a fraction of the cost of a local butcher or farmer who do not have the overheads from processing and distribution then its logical that something is up somewhere.

On that note I’ll leave it for today, if you are an independent meat producer that sells your product direct to the public please leave a comment with details below of your product and how to buy so we can get a list started of good meat!

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