The meat trade is made up of several distinct activities, which together transform a living animal into a nutritious and wholesome foodstuff. These activities require slaughterhouses, cutting and packaging buildings, cold stores and distribution centres.
Although slaughterhouses are outside the scope of this book, some reference to them must be made as they are intimately related to meat cold stores.
Their location is a problem without any definite solution, as they may be placed in livestock areas (“dead circuit” of meat) or in consumption areas (“live circuit” of livestock); the decision will obviously influence the design of the cold store on which the distribution of meat relies. Siting them in consumption areas, close to urban centres, has some advantages: fairly regular functioning throughout the year, some by-product sections may grow to a reasonable size to become profitable (rendering, guts and skins), and skilled labour is usually abundant. The main disadvantage is that of livestock transport, which is often on foot.
Plans to locate a slaughterhouse in a production area should be very carefully considered, as great fluctuations in throughput may occur (increase in running costs, idle personnel, etc.). Also, the transport of meat is not always easy, the industrial infrastructure is often inadequate and the costs of construction are high. It is worth taking this into account when developing countries are being considered.
A sensible solution is to build slaughterhouses in the urban centres closest to the production areas; refrigerated meat can be supplied to other urban centres within a 250 km radius.
A meat cold store consists of a building (usually including a group of cold chambers) designed to keep meat in well-defined conditions of temperature and relative humidity as it is a very perishable foodstuff. The chambers should be heat-insulated and artificially refrigerated, and have proper ventilation and pure air.
TABLE 1. Storage conditions for chilled animal products
|Beef||-1.5 to 0||90||3–5||weeks|
|Beef (10% CO2)||-1.5 to -1||90–95||max. 9||"|
|Lamb||-1 to 0||90–95||10–15||days|
|Pork||-1.5 to 0||90–95||1–2||weeks|
|Veal||-1 to 0||90||1–3;||"|
|Chicken||-1 to 0||>95||7–10||days|
|Rabbit||-1 to 0||90–95||max. 5||"|
From: Recommended conditions for cold storage of perishable products, International Institute of Refrigeration, Paris, 1967 & 1971.
A cold store for meat can be considered a specialized store since it is designed and equipped to store a single product which can be in different forms (carcasses, cuts, deboned) and/or be at different levels of cold (chilled, frozen). These specialized stores are complementary to a slaughterhouse and perhaps a freezing facility, and are part of any stage in the distribution process that constitutes the “cold chain”.
Depending on their role in the cold chain, cold stores can be classified as production, short-term, long-term or distribution stores.
Production cold stores are part of the slaughterhouse. Their main functions are primary chilling, indispensable in modern meat treatment, and carrying buffer stock, particularly when they are close to cattle-raising areas. This second role serves to regulate all-year production and involves short- and long-term storage cold stores, which do not necessarily form part of the slaughterhouse complex and can be placed at a considerable distance. These stores receive goods from production stores, keep them from one week to several months (see Table 1), and supply distribution stores.
Distribution stores, generally sited in urban areas, receive goods either from production or short- and long-term stores and distribute to local retail markets. Their storage periods are normally short, varying from one to several weeks.
Cold stores can be used to keep refrigerated chilled meat or frozen meat or both, with independent refrigerated chambers for each purpose and the facility of changing from one cold operation to another.
Meat cold stores can belong to private commercial companies, public organizations or cooperative societies. Whatever their ownership, quality is the most important factor of their activity and they are run on a profit basis.