A slaughterhouse also called an “abattoir”, is a facility where animals are killed and processed into meat products. In large facilities, slaughtering is carried out in fully mechanised lines. The workers are assigned to specific workstations and the carcasses move on a conveyor system from station to station until the slaughter process is completed.
In slaughter line operations, clean and unclean operations are physically separated and individually manned to avoid contamination of carcasses and edible by-products. The unclean operations include stunning, bleeding, and defeathering (poultry), dehairing (pigs) and dehiding (cattle and small ruminants). The clean operations include evisceration, carcass splitting and carcass dressing.
In many developing countries adequate slaughter facilities are not available. At rural or local level slaughtering is often either carried out under a tree or in deteriorated and outdated slaughter units without any waste treatment facilities. This often results in health hazards through contamination of the meat during slaughter operations and of the surrounding land and water through uncontrolled release of waste and effluents.
In rural settings slaughtering can be done in basic small-scale facilities. Before building a slaughtering facility a number of factors must be considered including the species to be slaughtered, expected slaughter numbers, environmental impact, the availability of a competent workforce and the linkages to the meat markets.
To facilitate the efforts of governments and private investors to improve meat hygiene, the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius committee on meat hygiene has developed guidelines in the “Code of Hygienic Practices for Fresh Meat” on the design, facilities and equipment of slaughter establishments. FAO has also published a number of technical papers dealing with the issue.