While there are some encouraging signs of improvements in the abattoir sector in APHCA-member countries, such as new buildings, they cover only a tiny segment. There are still far too few new and technically efficient abattoirs available, compared with the hundreds of slaughterhouses and slaughter slabs in each country, most of which are not in the hygienic condition needed for the supply of clean and wholesome meat.
When compared with other developing regions, conditions in the majority of traditional Asian slaughterhouses and slaughter slabs are extremely poor. Many of them do not fulfil minimum hygienic requirements to produce safe and wholesome meat. Improvements are needed urgently.
In this region, slaughterhouses typically are located in urban slum areas. This implies that there is something unclean being produced, and slaughter workers act accordingly, feeling unobliged to work hygienically. The situation is aggravated by the poor condition of facilities. There is a need for profound rethinking in Asian developing countries on this issue; the ideal is to regard slaughterhouses in the same light as other institutions that serve the public, such as hospitals or schools. After all, meat produced in slaughterhouses is economically and nutritionally the most valuable but hygienically the most sensitive food in human nutrition.
Improvements are needed in slaughterhouse structure and installations, in waste and effluent treatment and in the way slaughterhouse workers do their job. Sanitary control measures must be efficiently enforced, and sanitary control personnel empowered to shut down operations or exclude facilities from the food chain if minimum requirements are not met.
In some countries there is obviously still a long way to go to achieve these targets, in particular in the small-scale sector and in rural slaughterhouses. But the time has come to reform this most neglected sector in livestock development. Abattoirs that do not comply with the minimum requirements should be rigorously closed down by authorities. These aims must be achieved through joint efforts by the government sector responsible for enforcing sanitary laws and regulations and the municipal and private sectors that operate the slaughterhouses.
Cleaning up the abattoir sector will require huge investments just to get facilities in APHCA-member countries up to basic standards. Highly hygienic meat marketing found in Western countries cannot yet be considered. Instead, the regional benchmark should be that facilities supply the traditional “wet” meat markets with clean, hygienic, unrefrigerated meat.
A cost calculation for the necessary investments will depend on which animals are predominantly being slaughtered. The following outlines a model scenario for improvements – using a typical Asian country with large pork and moderate beef consumption and 500 registered slaughterhouses for pork and 50 facilities for beef:
First step: Consolidate the many very small facilities into units with higher capacity. Inefficient and highly unhygienic facilities that do not meet minimum requirements are closed down. In the pork sector, the concentration ratio of remaining facilities would be 4 to 1, and in the beef sector it would be 2 to 1. This means where there were previously 500 pork slaughterhouses, the number would shrink to 125, and where there were 50 beef abattoirs before, the remaining amount would be 25.
Slaughter lines for these improved abattoirs would still be simple. For pork, the model shown in Fig. 50 and for beef, the model shown in Figs. 37, 38 and Annex A1/A2 would be adopted. The minimum cost for the pig-slaughter line would be around US$12 000, and for the bovine slaughter line it would be US$70 500–100 000. Pork abattoirs with increased capacity would need a minimum of two or three slaughter lines, as depicted in Fig. 50. The investment in pork abattoirs (assuming three lines in each facility at US$12 000 each for 125 abattoirs) would be US$4.5 million. For beef abattoirs (assuming half of the 25 premises at US$70 000 each and half at US$100 000 each), the overall investment costs would be slightly more than US$2 million. These figures do not include the construction costs for the buildings, holding pens and effluent treatment facilities. In a very conservative estimation, these costs may average around US$80 000 for each cattle facility (total US$2 million) and US$60 000 for each pig facility (total US$7.5 million). Thus, the minimum investment to clean up the abattoir sector in this scenario would require around US$16 million. If contingencies and additional materials and supplies are added, the minimum investment may run closer to US$25 million.
The construction of facilities would all be very basic but functional and hygienic. They would serve to supply the traditional wet markets and thus no refrigeration costs have been included in these calculations.
Also, the clean-up would not be thorough if other sources of heavy contamination of meat were not targeted, such as the transport facilities and the market stalls. Additional investments will be needed to address the contamination that takes place in these areas. This ultimately will involve a shift to marketing a certain share of the meat produced in refrigerated form, which is an expected future development. But it will require greater investments for the refrigeration units, which currently cost around US$140 000 for one.
Slaughter lines could be more cost efficient if most or all individual parts needed could be fabricated locally or within the region. Importing slaughterhouse equipment from developed countries causes costs to surge. It would be desirable if more technical companies in the subregion would include abattoir equipment in their manufacturing programmes. So far, there are only a few companies capable of producing good-quality simple equipment, such as hooks, overhead rails, platforms and working tables. Such firms were identified during the research mission for this report in Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines and Vietnam. Some of these companies have endeavoured to go into more sophisticated equipment manufacturing (such as what is shown in Fig. 60 and Fig. 61). However, it remains to be seen if such equipment can compete in the international market or if further improvements are needed. There were also a few companies in the countries visited that manufacture good-quality prefabricated panels (metal sheets with interior solidified polyurethane foam) that can create cold rooms but also can be used as wall material for new slaughter facilities. But the research mission also identified many inexperienced firms involved in slaughterhouse construction. In some cases, the output quality is good while in others there are significant quality deficiencies, such as substandard welding and non-durable galvanization. Clearly, more development work is needed in this sector.