The abattoir sector has been neglected in most national livestock development programmes throughout Asia and the Pacific. But considerable consumer concern for the improved safety of meat is driving the pressure on governments to initiate substantial hygienic improvements. Member countries in the Animal Production and Health Commission for Asia and the Pacific (APHCA) increasingly have become interested in developing abattoirs for ruminants, pigs and other red meat-producing livestock.
To assist countries and assess the current and future needs of abattoir development in Asia and the Pacific region, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) initiated a technical mission to five selected APHCA-member countries: Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines and Vietnam. The mission’s aim was to gather updated information and create strategies for developing the abattoir sector, with a focus on small- to medium-sized slaughter facilities. The consultant in charge of the mission had previous experience in all APHCA-member countries. Thus, references in this report are not limited to the five countries he visited; rather, the report applies to the entire subregion.
There are many slaughterhouses and slaughter slabs in APHCA-member countries, most of them officially registered but some of them operating in a “grey zone”. This means they have low- to medium-capacity and supply traditional meat markets with “hot” (unrefrigerated) meat. Without a cold chain component, these conditions demand short distances for transporting and short distribution times from slaughtering to the consumer. Thus, slaughterhouses must be located close to the markets.
The abattoir sector in APHCA-member countries presents very mixed images and impressions. There are the relatively new, well equipped and hygienically operating abattoirs that produce for export or for quality meat outlets domestically. But there are also large abattoirs in major cities that were built and equipped long ago and still function in an unsatisfactory state of repair, creating tremendous pollution problems due to their location, primarily in the inner areas of each city. Then there is a third, and the largest, group of small- to medium-sized private or municipal abattoirs. This group entails a wide scope of types and categories in terms of availability and quality of equipment and slaughter hygiene, ranging from acceptable handling procedures to absolutely disastrous and hazardous practices that result in heavily contaminated meat and serious food safety risks.
There is an increasing tendency in Asian countries – more pronounced in some than in others – to produce good-quality chilled meat for domestic sales. Such production, from a tiny portion to an estimated 15 percent of the overall meat market, depending on the country, is handled by the private sector. Among them, there is obvious awareness that only technically high-standard and hygienic abattoirs with refrigeration units can supply such markets. However, because of the lack of suitable meat sources from hygienic slaughter facilities, some outlets for prepacked chilled meat, such as supermarkets, are still supplied with the hygienically substandard “hot” meat from traditional abattoirs. This is a very dangerous practice because meat in supermarkets or other quality meat shops undergoes prolonged storage periods, and there is a high risk of massive spoilage or food-poisoning bacteria growth – if the raw material was heavily contaminated, as is usually the case with meat from traditional abattoirs. Such practices can prove hazardous to consumers and must be discontinued. Meat to be sold chilled by supermarkets and quality meat shops must be refrigerated at the abattoir immediately after the slaughtering of animals.
The overwhelming majority of private and public slaughterhouses cater to the traditional meat markets with “hot” or unrefrigerated meat. This is the sector where profound technical and hygienic improvements are needed in order to supply clean meat to consumers. Improvements are urgently required for practically all elements within the chain of handling slaughtered animals, slaughtering and carcass dressing as well as meat cutting and deboning.
Severe shortcomings were noted during the research mission for this report in terms of:
To start discussions and create awareness of the enormous tasks ahead, the main shortcomings observed during the research mission are highlighted in this report, followed by a series of recommendations on technical improvements for simple and better-quality slaughter facilities. Further strategies for the urgently needed upgrading of the abattoir sector have to be worked out on a national and regional basis through cooperation of abattoir sector managers, the engineering sector and the veterinary sector.
The first and strongest recommendation for improving the abattoir sector is to replace the booth-slaughter (and batch) system for bovines and small ruminants that are still widely practised in medium-sized and larger facilities with the more hygienic and easier to supervise line-slaughter system. The booth-slaughter (and batch) system is only warranted and hygienically acceptable in very small operations.
In addition to the recommendations, this report provides detailed examples of:
Summary country reports, prepared after the author’s visits to a small proportion of the national abattoir sector in five selected APHCA-member countries, are attached as Annex B.
In this report, the terms “abattoir” and “slaughterhouse” are used interchangeably.
Most of the 114 drawings and photographs used in this report were produced by the author in cooperation with technical staff of the Animal
Products Development Center in Manila, Philippines.
Illustrations or technical details from the following FAO publications were taken for use within this report:
Some drawings were modified or redrawn from technical brochures published by the Italian abattoir equipment supplier Cogemate (Figs. 19, 37, 38, 55, 56, 94, 95, 101, 102, 103).