Meat processing technology consists of technologies and procedures in the manufacture of processed meat products. Processing of meat maximises the utilization of meat and slaughter by-products. Meat mixes containing lower grade meat trimmings and additional non-meat ingredients are a valuable source of animal protein in the diet. The animal tissues, muscle meat and fat are the main ingredients. Occasionally other tissues such as internal organs, skins and blood are used and complemented with ingredients of plant origin.
All processed meat products on the market have been physically and/or chemically treated. These treatments go beyond the simple cutting of meat into meat cuts or meat pieces with subsequent cooking as meat dishes. Modern meat processing involves a range of physical and chemical treatment methods. One single method can be applied but it is often a combination of various methods.
- Meat processing technologies include various individual steps such as:
- Cutting, grinding and chopping
- Mixing and tumbling
- Salting and curing for
- Application of spices and non-meat ingredients
- Stuffing of meat mixes into casings or other containers
- Drying and fermentation
- Hot or cold smoking
- Heat treatment (pasteurisation, sterilisation)
Basic meat processing can be carried out manually using simple tools and only limited equipment. Increasingly modern meat processing is more mechanized using specialized equipment and tools. The core processing equipment consists of a meat grinder, a bowl cutter, cooking vat, smokehouse and chiller. The most essential tools are brine pump, cutting table, butcher knives and bone saws. Such equipment and tools are available tailor-made for small-scale, medium-sized or large-scale operations.
FAO promotes the introduction of modern safer meat processing techniques. In the past this included initialising and conducting intensive hands-on training courses at national level or as part of regional projects. Recent activities include the regional technical coop program (TCP) training in Africa (1997-1999) and Asia & the Pacific (2003-2005). Several FAO publications are available with valuable in-depth information on meat processing.