A. Government policy and legislation
Rapidly growing livestock production in response to increasing meat demand, particularly in developing countries, is associated with environmental pressures and problems. Some of these can be mitigated through appropriate measures, but many of them are unavoidable and difficult to address. Similar to livestock production, the conversion of livestock into meat at the abattoir stage can be linked to various health and environmental hazards. Fortunately, these hazards can be contained if abattoirs function properly and produce meat according to stringent hygiene and environmental rules and regulations.
In this context, one key responsibility of governments is to develop and provide for abattoirs and for the meat sector as a whole the necessary hygiene and environmental legislative frameworks. These need to be supplemented by regulatory systems (“directives”) to be issued by governments and designed to implement and strictly enforce the laws.
The abattoir sector in many countries in Asia has been neglected compared to other sectors of national and regional livestock development. Consequently governments should, on the basis of effective hygiene laws and regulations, encourage and facilitate the construction of good standard abattoirs by the private or public sector, e.g. through the removal of bureaucratic obstacles, the provision of sound technical advice, and the identification of possible state financial incentives or subsidies.
B. Government’s role in ensuring public health standards and consumer protection
One principle of modern meat hygiene is the sharing of responsibilities for consumer protection between the meat business operator and the government official health and hygiene control entities. Meat business operators must be prepared to accept the primary responsibility for the hygienic quality and safety of meat and meat products. They are supervised in this task by the official government control authorities.
In order to enhance the viability and safety of current consumer protection systems in the region, a significant increase of investment by abattoir/meat business operators in suitable equipment for hygienic slaughtering and proper meat inspection as well as in waste treatment facilities is an urgent requirement. In addition, governments must participate in complementary investments focused on capacity building in Good Hygiene Practices and sanitary control of meat as detailed in topic 5 below.
Cooperation between the meat business operators and the supervising Government personnel, usually official veterinarians, must be improved to ensure that those officials have unrestricted access to the meat plants and are provided with all necessary documentation regarding food chain information and internal hygiene process control. Effective process control in abattoir operations on the basis of Good Hygiene Practices (GHP) and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point Schemes must be the ultimate target to be achieved in APHCA-member countries in the necessary closer cooperation between meat business operators and veterinary authorities.
Ensuring efficient and comprehensive consumer protection requires that GHP measures do not focus exclusively on sanitary abattoir operations, but also on the handling of live animals at the pre-abattoir and of the meat produced at the post-abattoir stage. Government initiated public health measures in this respect comprise efficient ante-mortem inspection by official veterinarians, assessment of the risk of residues in meat caused by illegal or inadequate feeding practices as well as hygiene control during the handling of meat post-abattoir, including transport/distribution through the meat supply chain. It is clear that the benefits achieved by hygienic abattoir operations/management will be negated by severe meat contamination occurring during the various meat retail operations.
C. Improved meat inspection practices
Consumer protection can only be assured by the implementation of internationally accepted meat inspection practices required to prevent the spread of zoonotic and/or food-borne diseases. Current practices are very deficient and in some APHCA countries the situation has even deteriorated. This necessitates urgent and immediate improvements, both in terms of available personnel and efficient meat inspection practices. It is the role and responsibility of governments to provide sufficient inspection personnel. To facilitate this process in the context of scaled down resources, the closing down of a number of inefficient and unhygienic small slaughterhouses and concentrating resources (both financial and human) on fewer but good standard abattoirs would be a rational move towards ensuring existing plants with more effective official inspection services. Governments must also invest in human capacity by laying more emphasis on improving the proficiency of meat inspection personnel (see topic F.).
Supporting the meat inspection services includes ensuring the availability of laboratory facilities in each country for diagnosing parasitic or infectious diseases. Concurrently the hygienic status of meat and meat products produced for the markets as well as the hygiene of equipment and premises used in the meat chain should be tested in such laboratories.
D. Promote local abattoir engineering companies/equipment manufacturers
The poor functioning and hygiene of many abattoirs in developing countries is linked to the fact that efficient and good quality slaughter equipment is practically only available from developed countries, at costs not readily affordable by local meat business operators. The majority of most locally produced abattoir equipment are typically deficient in terms of material quality and functionality. This results in difficulties in operating such equipment properly, breakdowns, corrosion and short productive life. Local companies engaged in the manufacture of abattoir equipment should be promoted by technical assistance programmes. Their access to internationally developed technologies should be facilitated; this could include the import of locally not available machinery and materials. Regional technical cooperation in this sector should also be promoted, thus enabling specialized manufacturers to benefit from the economies of scale generated by larger distribution networks throughout the region. It fosters the availability of more profitable and possibly cheaper manufacturing through higher output numbers of individual equipment.
E. Set up a representative range of pilot equipment for abattoir operations
The establishment of pilot and demonstration facilities, featuring recommended equipment for small to medium-scale abattoirs for replication in the individual countries, would be one initial step in technically and hygienically upgrading abattoirs in APHCA-member countries. Donor and APHCA funding could be combined for this purpose. Preferably the demonstration units should be built in connection with an existing meat training institution where also routine slaughtering at a daily basis is carried out to support practical demonstrations/training. The demonstration equipment should not only be limited to genuine slaughter facilities but also include equipment for humane killing of slaughter animals as well as treatment plants for solid abattoir wastes and abattoir effluents in order to address the much needed improvement of the environmental impact of abattoirs.
F. Abattoir sector training
Training in the abattoir sector is urgently needed for personnel at abattoirs carrying out sanitary, meat hygiene and technical operations:
a) Training in Meat Inspection
Insufficient skills and knowledge in meat inspection routine practices are a key constrain to ensuring food safety of animal products. This includes deficiencies in judgment from the food safety aspect of suspicious or diseased animals or meat. National Veterinary Authorities should make all efforts possible and practicable to start training programmes in meat inspection. However, it has to be realized that not all APHCA-member countries may be currently in a position to provide such training that meets international standards.
Therefore efforts should be undertaken, possibly in technical cooperation with FAO and inputs from donor countries/organizations, to set up regional training in meat inspection. The best solution would be the establishment of a long-running meat inspection training programme at a suitable facility in Asia, where meat inspection personnel from APHCA-member countries would receive profound theoretical and practical training in meat inspection. The skills acquired would enable these trained experts to act as trainers in their home countries providing outreach training at a national basis for local meat inspection staff. Previous similar FAO conducted regional projects in Africa and Asia have proved extremely useful and had a decisive impact on the standard of meat inspection in many participating countries.
b) Training in Abattoir Technology and Hygiene
While APHCA-supported meat inspection training as described in (a) should preferably be organized on a regional basis, training in abattoir technology and hygiene should primarily be conducted at the national level, with the assistance of national and possibly international experts. In this case the principle of “training of trainers” could be applied, but also the slaughter personnel in individual abattoirs directly be targeted. The training should not only refer to correct slaughter techniques but should always be linked with practices indispensable for efficient slaughter hygiene. In addition, training on these subjects on a regional level could materialize if the demonstration center (mentioned above in topic E.) for abattoir equipment could be made available.
Fig. 91: Mini slaughterhouse for cattle: Line-slaughtering system. Slaughter floor and by-product area measure 8 x 6 m
Height of bleeding rail = 4.5 m
Length of bleeding shackle = 1.4 m
Height of dressing rail = 3.60 m
Length of flaying/dressing rail = 7 m
Length of dressing hook = 0.6 m
Height of platform = 1.3 m
Length of spreaders = 0.9 m
Quarter rail height = 2.6 m
Dispatch rail height = 2.3 m
Side view corresponding to above floor plan
Side view of the above floor plan
Front view to floor plan Fig. 93
Fig. 99: Mini slaughterhouse for pigs: Line-slaughter system. Slaughter floor and by-product area measure 8 x 6.5 m
Height of bleeding rail = 3.3 m
Length of bleeding shackle = 0.84 m
Length of gambrel = 0.63 m
Height of dressing rail = 2.7 m
Height of platform = 0.6 m
Side view to above floor plan (Fig. 100)
Fig. 104: Height of rails for line slaughter of bovines, small ruminants and pigsr
Fig. 105: Dressing hook (sliding hook, one piece)
Fig. 106: Dressing hook (sliding hook, two pieces)
Fig. 107: Dressing hook (roller hook, two pieces, roller part can be galvanized, hook part must be stainless steel)
Fig. 112: Viscera cart
Overview In the red-meat sector, cattle are the dominant livestock species to be slaughtered in Indonesia. Buffalo meat is in demand only in some regions. Other red-meat sources are pigs, which are used only by certain religious groups. Slaughtering of pigs is common in Java, Bali and some other regions but with much lower meat output than what is derived from the slaughtering of bovines. Indonesia is one of the Southeast Asian countries where investments in the abattoir sector are by both private- and public-sector enterprises. In the private sector, there appears to be two groups of enterprises: 1) a small number of efficiently run medium-sized cattle slaughterhouses with relatively modern line slaughter systems that produce chilled premium beef cuts from cattle imported from Northern Australia and fattened and finished in Indonesia; and 2) a large number of small-scale privately owned slaughter facilities (appearing once market liberalization and decentralized administrative structures took hold a decade ago), with only basic facilities and that primarily supply the traditional meat markets. The mushrooming of such small technically, unhygienic and even obsolete slaughter places came at the expense of some large-scale slaughterhouses, such as the central abattoir of Jakarta. This used to be a very efficient operation, slaughtering in two lines up to 2 000 cattle per night using semi-automatic electrical stunning and modern line slaughter and dressing lines that enabled good hygiene and meat inspection. Apparently butchers and meat dealers nowadays prefer using the small abattoirs scattered around the country to supply the traditional meat markets because the slaughter fees and transport costs for livestock and meat are lower. The change in slaughter systems has resulted in high levels of meat contamination and deficiencies in sanitary inspection. This development is certainly regrettable and efforts should be made to reverse it. According to the Directorate of Veterinary Public Health of the Ministry of Agriculture, there are 838 slaughter facilities registered throughout the country, which are categorized in two types: Type I: Meets minimum hygiene requirements – 154 units (19 percent) Type II: Does not meet minimum hygiene requirements – 684 units (81 percent) Many of the numerous type II facilities are obsolete and should be shut down if they are not prepared to comply with minimum hygienic standards. There is a further issue in Indonesia with the quite sizeable amount of livestock that is slaughtered illegally without any sanitary supervision. Assessment of slaughter facilities This evaluation is based on seven slaughterhouses for cattle and two for pigs that meet the type I criteria of “minimum hygienic standards”. This standard can be clearly observed in the case of two well-mechanized cattle abattoirs, one slaughtering 60 and the other 160 head of cattle a day. In both abattoirs, animals are stunned following Halal requirements with a concussion stunner and bleeding on a bleeding grit; the carcasses are then hoisted up and all subsequent processes (hide pulling, eviscerating, splitting) are carried out with the carcass in a vertical position and thus avoiding floor contact. In those two facilities, only quality beef cattle (deriving from Northern Australia and fattened locally) are slaughtered. The carcasses are kept cooled with the aim of producing vacuum-packed prime beef cuts and manufactured beef. The prime beef cuts are marketed to restaurants, hotels and supermarkets or sold in company-owned quality fresh meat shops in many locations of the country. These production and marketing systems are good for serving quality-conscious consumers but constitute only a tiny fraction of the beef market. Elsewhere, beef is overwhelmingly slaughtered in much less suitable premises. Although many of the facilities have been officially rated as complying with the minimum requirements, in reality they do not meet the standards because the workers take little care of hygienic slaughtering. As in many other Asian countries, the system of renting out public or private slaughter facilities to meat dealers, who bring their team of slaughter men, is detrimental to meat hygiene. Those teams of slaughter workers have no understanding of hygiene and are difficult to train. Indonesian authorities have implemented a series of measures to upgrade slaughterhouse conditions and to improve food safety. In the cities of Bogor and Yogyakarta, new municipal slaughterhouses were recently built with hygienic line-slaughter systems and included proper effluent treatment facilities. In Bogor, there is a battle between the authorities and the butchers because the latter so far refuse to use the new facilities. In Yogyakarta with its two separate abattoirs for cattle and pigs, a similar dispute seems to be ongoing, aggravated by the fact that nearby residents are opposed to pig slaughtering and the treated wastewater from the pig facility running through their area. Reportedly, the municipality of Yogyakarta spent some US$350 000–400 000 to build and equip the cattle and pig units as well as the effluent treatment facility. Indonesian authorities should not be discouraged by the negative response from the meat dealers and traditional butchers and should continue building medium-sized abattoirs. This type of abattoir is an appropriate approach to current and future demands in meat supply and food safety. Such abattoirs allow a certain degree of mechanization and much better hygienic slaughtering than in traditional small-scale facilities. The availability of such medium-sized abattoirs will in the long run enable authorities to phase out all unhygienic small-scale facilities that do not comply with the requirements of meat hygiene, effluent treatment and sanitary control. Practically, all the equipment of Yogyakarta’s new abattoirs were locally fabricated (cattle stunning box, overhead rails, platforms, hooks). The quality of equipment seems satisfactory, although some of it should have better protection against corrosion, such as with galvanization. More complicated equipment, such as moving platforms, also has been locally fabricated. It remains to be seen if they function well under the expected harsh working conditions in public abattoirs. Any future public abattoir projects in the country should make better use of the technical expertise available either at the national or international level. A number of details in the newly erected abattoirs could have been executed in a better manner without much additional cost, such as corrosion protection, wall tiles up to a certain height (in slaughter halls, up to 3 m) and better lay-out of slaughtering and dressing rooms. Of the veterinarians employed in food and meat inspection, approximately 20 are national food plant auditors, 55 are subnational meat inspectors and 150 are veterinary public health inspectors (the latter probably not overwhelmingly involved in slaughterhouses). Considering the existing 850 abattoirs and slaughter slabs in the country, there is certainly a need to increase the number of sanitary control personnel.
ANNEX B Country reports
In the red-meat sector, cattle are the dominant livestock species to be slaughtered in Indonesia. Buffalo meat is in demand only in some regions. Other red-meat sources are pigs, which are used only by certain religious groups. Slaughtering of pigs is common in Java, Bali and some other regions but with much lower meat output than what is derived from the slaughtering of bovines.
Indonesia is one of the Southeast Asian countries where investments in the abattoir sector are by both private- and public-sector enterprises. In the private sector, there appears to be two groups of enterprises: 1) a small number of efficiently run medium-sized cattle slaughterhouses with relatively modern line slaughter systems that produce chilled premium beef cuts from cattle imported from Northern Australia and fattened and finished in Indonesia; and 2) a large number of small-scale privately owned slaughter facilities (appearing once market liberalization and decentralized administrative structures took hold a decade ago), with only basic facilities and that primarily supply the traditional meat markets.
The mushrooming of such small technically, unhygienic and even obsolete slaughter places came at the expense of some large-scale slaughterhouses, such as the central abattoir of Jakarta. This used to be a very efficient operation, slaughtering in two lines up to 2 000 cattle per night using semi-automatic electrical stunning and modern line slaughter and dressing lines that enabled good hygiene and meat inspection. Apparently butchers and meat dealers nowadays prefer using the small abattoirs scattered around the country to supply the traditional meat markets because the slaughter fees and transport costs for livestock and meat are lower. The change in slaughter systems has resulted in high levels of meat contamination and deficiencies in sanitary inspection. This development is certainly regrettable and efforts should be made to reverse it.
According to the Directorate of Veterinary Public Health of the Ministry of Agriculture, there are 838 slaughter facilities registered throughout the country, which are categorized in two types:
Type I: Meets minimum hygiene requirements – 154 units (19 percent)
Type II: Does not meet minimum hygiene requirements – 684 units (81 percent)
Many of the numerous type II facilities are obsolete and should be shut down if they are not prepared to comply with minimum hygienic standards. There is a further issue in Indonesia with the quite sizeable amount of livestock that is slaughtered illegally without any sanitary supervision.
Assessment of slaughter facilities
This evaluation is based on seven slaughterhouses for cattle and two for pigs that meet the type I criteria of “minimum hygienic standards”. This standard can be clearly observed in the case of two well-mechanized cattle abattoirs, one slaughtering 60 and the other 160 head of cattle a day. In both abattoirs, animals are stunned following Halal requirements with a concussion stunner and bleeding on a bleeding grit; the carcasses are then hoisted up and all subsequent processes (hide pulling, eviscerating, splitting) are carried out with the carcass in a vertical position and thus avoiding floor contact.
In those two facilities, only quality beef cattle (deriving from Northern Australia and fattened locally) are slaughtered. The carcasses are kept cooled with the aim of producing vacuum-packed prime beef cuts and manufactured beef. The prime beef cuts are marketed to restaurants, hotels and supermarkets or sold in company-owned quality fresh meat shops in many locations of the country. These production and marketing systems are good for serving quality-conscious consumers but constitute only a tiny fraction of the beef market.
Elsewhere, beef is overwhelmingly slaughtered in much less suitable premises. Although many of the facilities have been officially rated as complying with the minimum requirements, in reality they do not meet the standards because the workers take little care of hygienic slaughtering. As in many other Asian countries, the system of renting out public or private slaughter facilities to meat dealers, who bring their team of slaughter men, is detrimental to meat hygiene. Those teams of slaughter workers have no understanding of hygiene and are difficult to train.
Indonesian authorities have implemented a series of measures to upgrade slaughterhouse conditions and to improve food safety. In the cities of Bogor and Yogyakarta, new municipal slaughterhouses were recently built with hygienic line-slaughter systems and included proper effluent treatment facilities. In Bogor, there is a battle between the authorities and the butchers because the latter so far refuse to use the new facilities. In Yogyakarta with its two separate abattoirs for cattle and pigs, a similar dispute seems to be ongoing, aggravated by the fact that nearby residents are opposed to pig slaughtering and the treated wastewater from the pig facility running through their area.
Reportedly, the municipality of Yogyakarta spent some US$350 000–400 000 to build and equip the cattle and pig units as well as the effluent treatment facility. Indonesian authorities should not be discouraged by the negative response from the meat dealers and traditional butchers and should continue building medium-sized abattoirs. This type of abattoir is an appropriate approach to current and future demands in meat supply and food safety. Such abattoirs allow a certain degree of mechanization and much better hygienic slaughtering than in traditional small-scale facilities. The availability of such medium-sized abattoirs will in the long run enable authorities to phase out all unhygienic small-scale facilities that do not comply with the requirements of meat hygiene, effluent treatment and sanitary control.
Practically, all the equipment of Yogyakarta’s new abattoirs were locally fabricated (cattle stunning box, overhead rails, platforms, hooks). The quality of equipment seems satisfactory, although some of it should have better protection against corrosion, such as with galvanization. More complicated equipment, such as moving platforms, also has been locally fabricated. It remains to be seen if they function well under the expected harsh working conditions in public abattoirs.
Any future public abattoir projects in the country should make better use of the technical expertise available either at the national or international level. A number of details in the newly erected abattoirs could have been executed in a better manner without much additional cost, such as corrosion protection, wall tiles up to a certain height (in slaughter halls, up to 3 m) and better lay-out of slaughtering and dressing rooms.
Of the veterinarians employed in food and meat inspection, approximately 20 are national food plant auditors, 55 are subnational meat inspectors and 150 are veterinary public health inspectors (the latter probably not overwhelmingly involved in slaughterhouses). Considering the existing 850 abattoirs and slaughter slabs in the country, there is certainly a need to increase the number of sanitary control personnel.
There have been significant developments in the Nepalese livestock sector over the past 15 years, with four multidonor-funded national projects. However, the improvements have focused on the live-animal sector, specifically in reference to animal health and breeding programmes, and the dairy sector.
The meat sector, particularly red meat production, has remained largely neglected. In Nepal, red meat derives from buffalos, small ruminants, goats and pigs; there is a significant slaughtering of pigs in the east of the country. The evaluation of the existing slaughter facilities underlines the stagnant situation, with no functioning improvements having been made for many years. There are as yet neither properly functioning slaughterhouses nor adequate meat-cutting facilities available, despite the demand for red meat for 20 million Nepalese citizens and millions of tourists each year.
There have been attempts at improving the abattoir situation: One slaughterhouse built with bilateral aid more than 20 years ago was technically too sophisticated and could not be run under the conditions of the country and had to close down. More recently, two private-sector, medium-sized buffalo slaughterhouses were built with technically inappropriate installations and one does not operate as planned and the other, still being built, is likely to have the same result.
Evaluation of small- to medium-sized cattle and buffalo abattoirs
The recent construction of the two buffalo abattoirs (in the Kathmandu area) is laudable. Unfortunately, the firms involved did not fully consider the technical, hygienic and environmental principles that should guide new slaughterhouse projects.
One of those slaughterhouses is located in a residential area and was built with unsuitable conditions, such as windows not far enough from the floor, extremely slippery floor tiles and no rounding (“coves”) at the junction of walls and the floor. Moreover, the overhead rails and mechanical or electro-mechanical elevators were improperly designed and finished. They are not sufficiently protected against corrosion and were built with sloped gravity lines that are difficult for the manual support of carcass movement. These factors have made the installations difficult to operate, and the workers have resorted to their traditional methods: The entire slaughter process takes place on the floor.
The other slaughterhouse is still under construction, but because it is being equipped with the same inappropriate installations as the first newly built one, most likely the workers will reject the equipment and return to unhygienic practices. Major corrections to the set-up could improve the situation. However, the location of this slaughterhouse is not ideal. It is approximately 2 000 m up in the mountains with a difficult access road, in particular the last stretch leading to the premises.
Because there are no good functioning facilities for buffaloes and other red meat animals available, slaughtering of such livestock takes place on the bare ground or contaminated concrete slabs or floors with unhygienic slaughtering and dressing methods. It is an absolutely unsatisfactory situation. As in centuries ago, only knives and axes are used; no equipment is available for suspending carcasses or carcass parts, and some of the heavy meat parts are dragged along the dirty floor to transport vehicles. And worse, carcasses are deboned in the same unhygienic spot where the slaughtering took place, which is contaminated with dirty water taken from rivers, with intestinal content and with animal dung. These conditions cause heavy contamination of practically all domestically produced red meat across the country and render the meat unfit for human consumption. Due to the large meat demand, increasing numbers of animals are put through such facilities daily, causing increased levels of congestion and contamination.
Slaughtered buffaloes, which provide the bulk of meat in Nepal, suffer the worst contamination due to their weight and body volume, which makes such carcasses difficult to handle in the absence of any mechanical slaughter equipment. Also, their treatment before and at the point of slaughter is highly questionable from an animal-protection point of view.
Because the slaughtering takes place on the ground and because there is no proper meat inspection, the zoonotic diseases, in particular human cases of parasite infestation such as tape worm (cysticercosis and hydatitosis), are on the rise in consumers, according to the Veterinary Department. Presumably, the number of bacterial food poisoning cases through meat is also high.
As processed meat products are becoming increasingly popular in Nepal, meat processors are desperately looking for sources of suitable meat, which should have low bacterial loads. One meat processor is currently building a small abattoir for buffalo meat production. However, the construction does not look very promising for major improvement in slaughter hygiene, although there is room within the system for keeping the carcass in a vertical position off the floor. But the building is very narrow and located in a residential area; contamination and environmental pollution problems are expected. And the addition of yet another facility apart from the many others scattered around the country will only exacerbate the difficulties in efficient hygiene control and proper waste treatment. Centralized slaughtering of buffaloes in one or a few good-quality, medium-sized abattoirs would be a better option for Kathmandu.
Two very small pig-slaughter and meat sales facility projects were recently initiated in Kathmandu with the ambition to comply with minimum hygienic standards but appear to be instead creating hygienic concerns. The scalding vat and scraping table are in poor condition. And worse, there are wide open spaces between the meat shops, the place were the slaughter takes place and where live pigs are kept waiting. Contamination of the displayed meat with food poisoning agents such as E. coli or Salmonella that originate from the slaughter area and the live pigs kept in close proximity are certainly inevitable.
Government plans and projects
The Government is fully aware that the situation in the meat sector must change and has planned a two-fold strategy to tackle the problems. Private investment in slaughter facilities is encouraged and the Government is also preparing to establish public abattoirs on land by the river to be built by the municipality in Kathmandu.
Because the Government recognizes that part of the malpractices in the meat sector are due to negligence and ignorance of slaughtering and meat handling personnel, there are also plans to establish a training centre for slaughter technology, hygiene and meat inspection. The proposed location is near Biratnagar, at the site of an existing training centre for employees from the livestock sector. For the practical training instruction, the plans entail building a small slaughter facility in which commercial butchers from three nearby cities (including Biratnagar) will be invited to slaughter their livestock. This would then provide hands-on training experience. Other courses would target by-product technology such as hide and skin treatment and the processing of casings for sausage production as well as tanning technology that can be made available in the existing two tanneries.
For both programmes – building of public abattoirs and establishing a national training centre – donor co-funding is needed. The prevailing situation is both a hazard to consumers’ health and a major source of economic losses through poor quality or spoiled meat and meat products. Investment for substantial improvements in the livestock slaughter sector can be easily justified and should be initiated soonest.
This evaluation entailed visiting only a small number of abattoirs in Punjab province, which is the most important livestock-producing province, and its capital city Lahore.
In Pakistan’s abattoir sector, there are a few private companies dealing exclusively with the export of sheep and goat meat to Middle East countries. Slaughterhouses of these companies are medium-sized with capacities of up to 800 small ruminants per day and are relatively new. These facilities have line slaughter and carcass cooling units, are relatively well equipped, and slaughtering is carried out in a satisfactorily hygienic way. There is also, at a very limited scale, beef exporting to the Middle East. A cattle slaughterhouse producing beef for export that was visited for this evaluation had very basic installations with a number of manual hoists to be used for simultaneous batch slaughter of up to eight bovines. This is certainly not the kind of set-up expected in a beef-for-export abattoir.
Good hygienic standards can possibly be achieved in one privately owned cattle abattoir near Lahore, which reportedly is using line-slaughter installations for improved hygiene. This company, whose permission to visit their slaughterhouse could not be obtained, produces chilled beef carcasses and beef cuts for fresh meat sales in its quality-meat shops in Lahore. The shops have refrigerated display units for the marketing of prepacked meat and prime beef cuts. This marketing strategy of offering chilled quality beef as an alternative to wet market beef sales has obviously proved successful; in addition to the existing three meat shops in Lahore, three more are planned to open soon.
Apart from this new approach (which perhaps has been replicated in other major cities in Pakistan but unsubstantiated during the evaluation), the majority of the existing slaughter facilities produce for the traditional wet markets, where meat is sold “hot” (unrefrigerated). There are large traditional slaughterhouses in the major cities as well as a multitude of medium-sized to small facilities in the big cities and smaller ones located in villages. Altogether, according to a government listing, there are 309 slaughter facilities countrywide, mostly managed by the “city district governments”; these slaughterhouses can be categorized as “municipal abattoirs”. There is also a considerable number of illegal slaughtering going on. In particular, small ruminants are slaughtered in fields and backyards.
A network of meat markets or numerous meat stalls outside the markets can be found in large and medium-sized cities as well as smaller population centres. Meat is a popular and much sought-after food in Pakistan, but annual consumption figures are still low due to the relatively high prices. Estimated consumption figures per capita and per year are 7.3 kg of beef/buffalo meat, 4.8 kg of mutton/goat meat and 3 kg of poultry meat. Goat and sheep meat are much favoured, and the prices are twice as high as for beef and buffalo meat.
New slaughterhouses recently were built to produce meat for export or to supply top-quality meat shops. Nearly all of the existing slaughterhouses producing for the domestic meat supply are more than 25 years old and do not meet hygienic minimum requirements. Due to the expansion of urban centres, they are now mostly located in densely populated areas and present severe environmental problems because of the untreated effluents and accumulated solid wastes. The abattoirs that produce for the local markets that were visited for this evaluation all need substantial improvements; for many of them, relocation should be considered.
A modern large abattoir with a line-slaughter system was built in Karachi 25 years ago. To this day, the local butchers refuse to use the modern installations in that facility because they do not want to abandon their traditional methods and fear the mechanical equipment will be more time consuming. That these modern systems are hygienically better for the production of clean meat seems to be of no interest to them. In Islamabad, there is a semi-mechanical large abattoir built not too long ago; but the equipment is said to be not operational for technical reasons, and the butchers engage in traditional practices of slaughtering and dressing on the floor.
The Lahore central abattoir has not received any major upgrades in the past ten years, but slaughtered output has grown considerably (up to 800 cattle and 1 500 sheep and goats per day) – beyond what the facilities were designed for. For the slaughtering of bovines, the outdated batch system is still used, with an estimated 30 animals slaughtered simultaneously on the floor. This congested and unhygienic slaughtering causes much meat contamination, with live animals, killed animals and flayed and eviscerated carcasses in close vicinity on the floor, exacerbated by millions of flies settling down on the meat surfaces as soon as they are cut open. The subsequent hoisting of the bovine carcass sides with primitive manual ropes does not change the situation because the meat contamination has already occurred.
The slaughtering of small ruminants in the Lahore abattoir is organized according to the batch-slaughter system; however, the animals are held in a vertical position on simple hooks for skinning and eviscerating. This may lessen the contamination likelihood to some extent – but only if the slaughter is done carefully.
Particularly unhygienic slaughtering of sheep takes place during the annual Eid el Fitr religious holiday when 3 million sheep are slaughtered outside proper facilities in one day. These sheep are typically heavier (at 20 kg) than the ones preferred for export meat to Middle East countries (at 8 kg). Members of the meat and by-product sectors have asked the Government to establish provisional slaughter facilities, including mobile services, at least in the major population centres for this annual religious-day slaughtering.
In addition to ensuring better meat hygiene and waste disposal, such temporary measures would make use of the sheep intestines for the processing of sausage casings, which are needed for export purposes. Specially selected sheep weighting 20 kg deliver the best casing quality for export but because of the unorganized slaughtering on Eid el Fitr, most intestines cannot be collected with the freshness needed for good quality casing production, and it is thus wasted through spoilage.
Sheep-slaughter facilities with a throughput of 100 or more animals per day make the intestine collection economically and technically feasible. Intestine value is calculated at 1 percent of the carcass value (4 000 rupees compared with 40 rupees). The value of the skin is 10 percent and is also an important export item. Sheep casings are predominantly exported to European Union countries, the Far East (Japan) and North America. Casings are animal by-products that are not subject to stringent trade restrictions for animal health reasons because they are heavily salted for preservation (up to 10 percent); however, the European Union issues export licenses to processing firms because of the need for required hygiene standards at the production facilities.
The traditional slaughtering of bovines and small ruminants at smaller slaughterhouses in the suburbs of the large cities or in small townships takes place in the same way as just described. But there is a problem in these facilities with the waste disposal. Although the solid waste from the large abattoirs is removed to dumping sites, the effluents are drained untreated into the regular water flows. In small abattoirs, effluents are simply drained outside the premises where they form accumulations of dirty contaminated water.
The abattoir situation described in Punjab Province can be considered representative of what happens elsewhere in the country. Punjab is even at the forefront of some new initiatives in the livestock and abattoir sectors. The government of Punjab has decided to establish the Punjab Meat Development Company, which will be a programme for the integrated production of meat animals; for example, male buffalo calves are to be raised to slaughter weights of 250–300 kg instead of killing them at the age of 1–2 weeks. For such fattening and also for the better organizing of slaughtering buffalo cows, the unhygienic facilities are to be replaced with modern abattoirs, which will produce primarily for the local demand but also for the export market. All this is planned to be done in close cooperation with and substantial investment from the private sector. One modern bovine abattoir (with a throughput of approximately 15 head/h) to be built near Lahore is already in the planning phase; a similar project is under consideration for Islamabad.
Similar to other Asian countries, large international wholesale and retail supermarket chains are opening branches in major cities in Pakistan. One of the most difficult problems such enterprises are facing is to find suppliers of good-quality clean meat. Such enterprises cannot continue with practices they have adopted, which is accepting meat that has been slaughtered at abattoirs that are not up to standard and that has been transported unrefrigerated to the supermarket’s cooling unit where it is then cut. Hygienic slaughtering and cooling of carcasses must in these cases be the obligation of the abattoir.
To establish new facilities with slaughter lines for bovines, expert inputs from renowned equipment suppliers or even turn-key operators will be needed. This includes the necessary waste and effluent treatment facilities. Such efforts can be efficiently supported by local technical firms.
A visit to one manufacturer of cooling systems for the food industries, including the fabrication of polyurethane-isolated panels for cold rooms that would be suitable for slaughtering and meat-processing facilities, was included in the research mission for this report. This manufacturer is also capable of producing galvanized and stainless-steel overhead rails, meat hooks and working tables of seemingly good quality.
As in many Asian countries, training in abattoir technology and hygiene is also urgently needed in Pakistan. It is certainly hard to change traditional methods of slaughtering livestock as practised at the Lahore municipal abattoir or at similar operations. But with the emergence of modern abattoirs, new generations of slaughter workers need to be trained, and thus suitable institutions for this purpose are needed.
The Department of Animal Products Technology at the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences in Lahore has taken the lead in this respect and is in the process of establishing training facilities for livestock products. These projects will all be located at the compound of a university experimental farm some 30 km outside Lahore. A training centre for the dairy industries is already under construction. For the meat sector, a training centre for abattoir and meat-processing technology and hygiene is planned for construction in the same compound. Such a move is very timely to service needed reforms for Pakistan’s abattoir sector. Donor inputs for such a project will certainly be very important. The training facility should have a medium-sized line for slaughtering bovines and a simple line for small ruminants along with installations for refrigeration and for meat cutting and some equipment suitable for meat processing. The plans for the training centre entail renting out the slaughter lines for use by the butchering community in the nearby city of Pattoki, which would at the same time secure the continuous availability of livestock at the premises for training purposes.
The training centre would also be helpful for providing training in meat inspection. Pakistan has a Slaughter Control Act dating back to 1963 that needs to be updated. In practical terms, veterinarians, mostly private practitioners, are entrusted to carry out meat inspection on a part-time basis. Meat inspectors are reportedly present during the slaughtering of animals for export meat production. For domestic slaughtering, the presence of meat inspectors is not common. Increased centralization of slaughtering in larger, modern abattoirs will facilitate proper meat inspection and bring about much-needed reforms in sanitary control and improved consumer protection.
The Philippine National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS), an entity under the Department of Agriculture, has established a nationwide list of accredited slaughterhouses that are categorized into A, AA and AAA; the AAA is the technically and hygienically most advanced. Currently, there are about 100 facilities on this list.
In addition to the accredited slaughterhouses, there is a large number of licensed slaughterhouses that amount to about four times that of the accredited facilities. These slaughterhouses are licensed for commercial slaughtering mostly by provincial or municipal authorities. Responsibility for sanitary control in these facilities rests with the provincial or municipal authorities, while the accredited ones are supervised by veterinarians belonging to the NMIS and representing the federal Government.
Combined, the accredited and licensed slaughterhouses add up to an estimated 500 facilities. Most of them slaughter pigs only; others operate separate pig and cattle slaughter lines in the same premises. Facilities with only cattle- or buffalo- (called “carabao” in the Philippines) slaughter are rare. Most slaughterhouses are privately owned; a small number is run by municipalities or owned by municipalities and rented out to private entrepreneurs. The common practice is to provide slaughter facilities to several meat dealers, who bring in their own teams of workers. These meat dealers deliver unrefrigerated meat mostly to the wet markets.
There is a top quality cattle- and pig-slaughter facility near Manila, where beef and pork carcasses are refrigerated immediately. The operating company also has about 400 meat shops across the country, where the chilled meat is sold to consumers. The facility near Manila supplies only part of the meat shops; other shops in Luzon or distant islands are supplied by slaughterhouses not owned by this particular company but that follow its policy for carcass chilling. One of those providers is a United Nations Development Programme/FAO-established model slaughterhouse at the national training centre, known as the Animal Products Development Center, in Metro Manila.
Another top quality cattle- and pig-slaughter facility reportedly exists in the southern island of Mindanao, which is considered a disease-free area; the meat produced is for export.
Evaluation of pig abattoirs or pig-slaughter lines
Most traditional pig abattoirs in the Philippines are designed for simple but efficient carcass movement off the floor. This unique feature is found across the country and should be replicated in other Asian countries. The design principle is a tiered, or terraced, slaughter floor. Holding pens, the stunning area and scalding vats are located on one level; scraping tables are placed on another lower level. The difference in height is such that the top of the scraping table reaches the level of the scalding vat, but operators are positioned lower. The start of the railing system is on another lower floor, with operators there standing at the lowest position of the floor (see Fig. 47). This multitiered floor design allows the easy loading and discharge from the scalding vat without mechanical elevating equipment. On the scraping table, pig carcasses can easily be manually moved to the start of the railing system, which is in a convenient height to hook the hind legs manually and without the use of elevating equipment from the scraping table position. Eviscerating and splitting is done on the rail, with operators standing on the lowest floor level, which again provides them the most convenient position without the need for platforms for these operations.
The tiered-system works very well and prevents any floor contact of carcasses, beginning at the scalding stage. Some slaughter teams try to cut corners by dehairing as well as eviscerating and splitting on the scraping table. Although there is no floor contact, this operation should be discouraged because scraping, eviscerating and splitting on the same working surface leads inevitably to cross contamination. These pig abattoirs should be equipped with sufficient overhead rails that enable eviscerating and splitting on each carcass in a vertical position.
A recently built but not yet operating medium-sized pig slaughterhouse, as well as the industrial slaughterhouse and the APDC pig line previously mentioned, use only a one-level floor design for their operations. However, the slaughter lines have elevating equipment for placing the pigs into the scalding tank and for hoisting them up on the gambrelling line for eviscerating and splitting.
For simple, small- to medium-sized pig-slaughter operations, the multitiered floor design is highly recommended because it allows pig slaughter off the floor with a suitable railing system without needing any other costly and technically complicated equipment that is prone to mechanical breakdowns.
Evaluation of cattle/carabao-slaughter lines and facilities
The previously mentioned industrial bovine-slaughter facilities use line systems with and without skinning cradles. These operations are flawless and provide hygienically impeccable beef to the consumer.
In most other bovine-slaughter facilities, batch slaughter is practised. Actually, some of the newer or recently restructured facilities are designed for line slaughter. But the slaughter personnel are not using it because either the systems do not function well or the operators were not instructed in the proper use. In such cases, several manual chain blocks have been provisionally attached to the overhead rail, and each chain block serves as the elevating equipment on that specific spot for batch slaughter.
Genuine batch slaughter systems are available in most other bovine-slaughter facilities. In these places, simple manual chain blocks are mounted to overhead beams. Partial flaying of the carcasses is done on the floor; the carcasses are then manually hoisted up for completion of the flaying and eviscerating and splitting.
The use of cradles is difficult in such batch-slaughter systems because the animals are knocked down (in the Philippines by the use of a hammer) and collapse on the floor, where the bleeding is carried out. The heavy carcass is difficult to place manually onto the cradle. Using the skinning cradle would involve hoisting up the carcasses two times; first for placing it on the cradle and second for elevating the partly flayed carcass for complete flaying and eviscerating.
In facilities visited for this evaluation, the slaughter personnel appeared to have accepted the use of chain blocks for elevating the carcasses in order to avoid eviscerating and splitting on the ground. Ordinary chain blocks, with the beef spreader suspended from its middle to the chain, pose an operational problem because the suspended carcass can swing horizontally in all directions. This situation is counterproductive for exact splitting along the spinal column and prompts butchers sometimes to abandon the vertical position and do the splitting on the floor. Others lower the carcass to a point where the forequarter gets firmly attached to the floor, a measure that stabilizes the position of the carcass and facilitates splitting but causes enormous contamination of the meat at the forequarter. This practice, observed in several places, must be prohibited.
Apart from the malpractice that leaves the forequarter contaminated, beef slaughtering in the facilities visited for this evaluation is carried out in a reasonably clean method. It appears that the NMIS has forced a number of cattle-slaughter facilities to introduce the chain-block system. Some facilities apparently were downgraded from AA to A because they did not comply with the NMIS requirements. Downgrading does not stop meat from being distributed, but it does narrow the distribution area of a slaughter facility; for example, the supply may no longer be possible within the province but it is still allowed within the surrounding township.
Malpractices particularly in beef slaughtering originate largely from the way slaughter teams are organized. It is common practice that a meat dealer entrusts one skilled worker to slaughter the animals. That person (“head butcher”) will recruit a few people as helpers who typically are unskilled workers, and worse, have no idea about slaughter hygiene. They do not receive a salary but collect a few trimmings from each carcass that they sell for money. And the helpers are interested in pleasing the head butcher in order to continue being employed. During the research mission for this evaluation, one such helper was seen splashing water from buckets indiscriminately on the dirty floors and on carcasses, both those with the hide on and those already flayed and eviscerated, and thus generating permanent meat contamination. Because of the constant turnover of helpers in these teams, teaching slaughter hygiene can be a losing battle. It is obvious that such a system is absolutely counterproductive to the introduction of adequate slaughter hygiene.
From visiting a few examples of slaughter facilities and from previous experience, it is obvious there has been a great deal of progress in conditions in the Philippines, which is largely credited to the NMIS professionals. And judging by the transport of meat to markets that is organized by the municipalities with trucks modified to hang carcass parts or in butcher-owned transport vehicles, it seems that the majority of the clean-meat production makes it safely to the markets.
Meat inspection by veterinarians, carcass by carcass, was only observed in the industrial slaughter facilities that produce for the high-end meat shops.
The abattoir sector in and around Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) represents the largest meat consumption area in Vietnam. In this area, large-scale, medium-sized and small-scale abattoirs are operating, slaughtering predominantly pigs (29 abattoirs officially registered in HCMC metropolitan area) and a few specializing in cattle slaughtering (two officially registered). In terms of size and slaughter capacity, some of the HCMC abattoirs exceed the size of abattoirs in other parts of the country. However, the medium- and small-scale facilities in HCMC are considered representative of facilities in the rest of the country, and thus the evaluation of them can speak for the standards countrywide.
In the pig meat sector, there are continuous-line abattoirs, semi-line abattoirs and also slaughter facilities that have no installations to assist the movement of carcasses. There is one large-scale pig abattoir in Hai Phong (not included in the research mission for this report) that was designed in the 1980s for export purposes and uses a continuous-line system. The second abattoir with continuous-line pig slaughtering in three separate lines is the VISSAN abattoir in HCMC, built in 1974. The semi-line systems use traditional ways to move the carcasses from stunning and bleeding to scalding and scraping, frequently dragging them along the floor; but for eviscerating and splitting, the carcasses are suspended on rails. In systems without any installations, all operations, from bleeding to splitting and further carcass cutting, take place on the floor.
In the cattle-slaughtering sector, the VISSAN abattoir is the only line facility (with two cattle lines) in the country. In this system, carcasses are hoisted up after the stunning, and all procedures, from bleeding to splitting, take place in the vertical position. This cattle line, imported more than 30 years ago, is still in reasonable condition and allows excellent hygienic slaughtering. It is surprising that the VISSAN cattle line was, for 30 years, the only line installation in the country for this livestock species, although this system has been preferred for many years for medium- to large-scale cattle operations.
All other cattle facilities use the batch-slaughter system, in which the animal is killed, dehided, eviscerated and split (the latter not always done) and, against all rules of meat hygiene, the carcass is deboned on the same spot. Batch slaughtering remains an option for small-scale cattle operations, although the dehiding, eviscerating and splitting should be done with the carcass hoisted up in a vertical position. In the cattle-slaughtering facilities visited during the research mission, no hoisting equipment was available, forcing the workers to carry out all procedures on the floor and thus inevitably causing heavy meat contamination that is severely aggravated further by the deboning of the carcasses on the same spot.
Evaluation of small- to medium-sized cattle and buffalo abattoirs
Apart from the VISSAN abattoir (currently slaughtering on average 30 cattle despite its 20-fold capacity), the situation in cattle abattoirs is disastrous from a hygienic perspective. The practice of batch slaughter without any equipment to elevate the carcass from the floor contaminates the spot for slaughtering due to the faeces and urine of the live animals, the dirty hides of the animals collapsed on the floor, boots or bare feet of the workers and the water splashed around to wash the floor, hides and meat. Drained blood and intestinal content adds to the contamination. When stripped from its hide, the bare carcass surface becomes exposed to this contamination. Worse, it is common practice to completely debone out of the carcass on the same spot, thus creating a multitude of fresh meat surfaces that get contaminated. Then the boneless meat cuts are dragged along the floor to transport vehicles where they are again deposited on the floor.
During the research mission, two cattle abattoirs were visited in the night time. The one under HCMC jurisdiction (with a throughput of 70 cattle and buffaloes per night) has to comply at least with some basic hygienic requirements, such as slaughter places slightly elevated from the rest of the concrete floor and use of stainless hooks and stainless tables – although these factors did not help much because contamination had already occurred or there was renewed contact with the dirty floor in between using the stainless hooks and tables. The abattoir outside of the HCMC boundary (with a throughput of 30–40 cattle and buffaloes per night) had none of these basic hygienic standards, and this may be the case in the rest of the country.
It seems that some major meat producers realize the grave hygienic deficiencies in the cattle abattoirs with batch slaughter because they are currently constructing three new abattoirs with line systems and imported equipment (more details further on). Similarly, one private cattle-slaughtering entrepreneur plans to change the inadequate batch system currently in use to a line system. Technical assistance should be given to avoid construction and installation failures, especially with the fabrication of equipment, which is to be done locally by manufacturers who most probably lack sufficient experience in the abattoir sector.
Evaluation of small- to medium-sized pig abattoirs
For this evaluation, four pig abattoirs were visited. One (with throughput of 200 pigs per night) that is located outside the HCMC boundary had no technical equipment. Even the scalding was done by pouring hot water on the skin of the carcasses. Slaughtering, splitting and carcass cutting was carried out on the floor with the same disastrous consequences as witnessed in the cattle operations. Two other pig abattoirs (one with a throughput of 1 000 pigs, the other with 120 pigs per night) had semi-line systems suspending the pigs after scalding and scraping – which brings about considerable hygienic improvements.
The fourth and smaller abattoir (30 pigs per night) is a model facility for continuous-line slaughter. It was developed with technical inputs through an FAO co-sponsored project. In this facility, the pigs are mechanically elevated into the scalding tank and scraping machine and onto the dressing rail, without any floor contact. Interestingly, the electrically heated scalding vat, electrically driven scraping machine and also the electrical stunning tongs were designed by the faculty of the Food Science and Technology of Nong Lam University (formerly the University of Agriculture and Forestry HCMC) through the FAO project and locally built by using high-quality stainless steel. The model scraping machine has already been replicated, and this model is in use in the smaller of the semi-line facilities mentioned previously.
These are very good developments and hopefully will be followed with further upgrading of the pig-slaughter sector. In general, there are some hygienically satisfactory facilities currently operating for the slaughtering of pigs, which is technically less demanding than cattle slaughtering. But further improvements are needed. One critical area for improvement is the scalding procedure, which currently is done with vats too small for the number of pigs put through and renewal of the water used needs to be changed more frequently. As well, there needs to be better control of the scalding water temperature at 60°–62°C; the current practice is to keep it too hot, even up to boiling point, which damages the skin by coagulating the proteins, leaving it too soft and negatively impacting meat quality. Another area needing improvement is the stunning procedure, which currently relies on the use of home-made wooden stunning tongs. No transformer is used and the electrical current comes directly from the mains; this can be torturous for the pigs and also negatively impacts on meat quality. Some of the smaller issues that should be corrected include inserting the hooks into the Achilles tendon instead of into the cut tendons of the hind foot and the incomplete removal of hair through mechanical or manual scraping.
Past and future development of the Vietnamese meat sector
In Vietnam’s centrally planned economic system, there were different structural developments in the slaughterhouse sector in the past. In the early stages after the country’s post-war economic development, slaughtering was, as much as possible, centralized using the modern large central abattoir VISSAN in Ho Chi Minh City, which was built in 1974 (with two cattle- and three pig-slaughter lines of high capacity) and a few traditional medium-sized abattoirs in Hanoi and other big cities. The VISSAN abattoir was built through an extraordinary project that was funded with German aid with the aim of securing the meat supply in the then-beleaguered city of Saigon (which surrendered only one year after completion of the abattoir to invading North Vietnamese troops). VISSAN was then successfully run by the Communist Government as HCMC’s central and practically only slaughterhouse.
The partial opening up to a market economy in the 1980s and 1990s created unfavourable developments in the slaughterhouse sector similar to experiences in other Southeast Asian countries: primarily the mushrooming of many small privately run slaughter facilities with obsolete technical and hygienic equipment, if any at all. These small slaughterhouses running without much expense for maintenance, hygiene measures and energy operated more cheaply than the large abattoirs could and thus attracted large numbers of animals away from the established facilities. The consequence was that butchers slaughtered cheaper but hygiene in general declined, and sanitary control was difficult or could not be implemented at all.
Due to the still-strong government presence in the economy, the veterinary authorities have been in a stronger position than in many other Asian countries to reverse the negative developments. According to the Department of Animal Health of HCMC, there are currently 31 abattoirs operating in the city, 2 for cattle and 29 for pigs. There are plans to build three modern abattoirs to cope with 70–80 percent of the meat demand in HCMC. One of the three new abattoirs is reportedly already under construction some 20 km from HCMC and is to be ready for operation in September 2008 by a private cooperative.
In addition, there are plans to relocate and restructure the VISSAN. Ten years ago there were plans to shut down the facility but there was no new facility available at that time; closure would have increased the number of filthy unhygienic small slaughter operations and thus FAO lobbied the HCMC People’s Committee to keep the VISSAN operating. The current plans involve the construction of a new VISSAN slaughter and meat-processing plant some 40 km outside HCMC in 2008 and, upon completion, the closure of the old VISSAN facility. This development will considerably upgrade the abattoir sector in southern Vietnam.
These two new abattoirs will have a combined pig-slaughter capacity of 8 000 pigs a day. However, to supply the demand in HCMC, 10 000 pigs per day are needed.
The veterinary authorities are intending to allow slaughtering only from abattoirs with a defined capacity or daily throughput, such as 300 pigs or 50 cattle; if these stringent plans materialize, this may create some logistical problems for the traditional unrefrigerated pork-supply system in HCMC. Currently this supply system works very well by sending the pig carcasses/pig sides from the various abattoirs unchilled to two main wholesale markets. From there, the pork is taken on the same morning to the retail markets. Consumers purchase from the retail markets the unchilled pig meat, which was slaughtered only a few hours previously.
The existing large pig abattoirs currently can only produce a total of approximately 1 000 pig carcasses per hour, which requires slaughter cycles of more than ten hours per night to supply HCMC adequately. Apart from delays in supplying the retail markets, the proposed veterinary authorities’ measures would be prohibitive in terms of meat shelf life: meat stored for ten hours or more is prone to spoilage when kept in ambient temperatures, as is the current practice. Taking this issue into account, the veterinary authorities are planning to add another ten smaller abattoirs (along with the three large-scale facilities) to supply the city’s suburbs.
The only way to solve the supply problem created by limited slaughtering to selected abattoirs will be the introduction of refrigeration for just-produced meat. With the addition of refrigeration, abattoirs could produce in ten-hour or longer shifts continuously to supply the retail markets. However, the pork sides would have to be kept for 24 hours in the refrigeration units before they are transported to the wholesale and retail markets.
This is how the meat-marketing system is practised in developed countries. However, Vietnam, like most other Asian countries, is not yet ready for such a change, first, because the infrastructure with uninterrupted cold chain is not in place and, second, because many consumers are not yet prepared to accept chilled meat. Also and specific to Vietnam, there is considerable processing of meat into loaves, balls and sausages, which is very popular. The amount of fresh meat currently marketed as chilled through supermarkets or quality meat shops is estimated at 5–15 percent. This proportion is steadily increasing, and the Animal Health Department is encouraging the introduction of chilled meat sales in up-market butcher outlets or supermarkets. Realistically, a sudden change to chilled meat for all market outlets is certainly difficult to implement in the short term.
Reportedly in China, a country with similar government involvement in the economy as in Vietnam, practically all major abattoirs are required to refrigerate slaughtered meat with subsequent delivery of chilled meat to market outlets. This is certainly the meat-marketing system of the future and has strong implications on the structure of abattoirs. Abattoirs will need to have refrigeration units, which are not economically viable for very small operations and hence will contribute to the phasing out of such operations. Vietnam will most likely be one of the first countries in Asia, after China, to undergo such structural changes.
In terms of slaughter equipment manufacturing, there is reportedly only one producer of poultry-slaughter lines. Equipment for pig and cattle slaughtering, even hooks and overhead rails, is still being imported from abroad, previously mostly from Europe (France, Germany) but now increasingly from China.