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Meat and milk

Meat  and milk processing

Meat processing

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.

Milk processing

Primary objective of processing milk is to extend shelf life and eliminate the risk of pathogens. Heat treatment is the most common processing technique and pasteurisation destroys the most heat resistant pathogen, M. tuberculosis.

Other techniques such as fermentation, cheese making, concentration and dehydration, usually incorporate a heat treatment step. The choice of process is influenced by local cultures and traditions and scale of operation. In South East Asia, milk sweets and curds account for a significant percentage of milk usage while cheese making is the preferred method in Latin America. In dairy exporting countries, large scale drying and cheese making operations predominate.

Most of the milk processed in developing countries is handled in small scale processing units and AGS programme provides advice and assistance in small scale processing technologies for liquid milk and traditional milk products from a range of animal species in the different regions.

An alternative, low cost milk-pasteurising-packaging system called the "Village Milk System", has been successfully introduced in a number of countries. In pouch processing eliminates the risk of post pasteurisation contamination and gives long shelf life.

Adding value is another very important aspect of milk processing. It contributes to increasing farmers' income and food security in rural community and marketing, see Livestock products marketing page

© V.Lopez Saavedra

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