Like most people, childhood horror movies taught me that a slaughterhouse was a place of blood, gore, and mutilation. As my family became more involved in the cattle industry, I saw another side of this building and grew to appreciate the work and the skill that occurs inside. However, it was not until I opened my own slaughter and processing facility that I truly understood how wrong I was in my early misconceptions.
Here are ten things that you probably didn’t know about owing a slaughterhouse…
- It’s not really bloody.
When most people envision a kill-floor or a processing room, they often think blood and gore. However, in my facility we capture all of the blood in a stainless steel container so it can be picked up by the rendering plant and used in animal by-products. Not only is this good for the environment, but it also helps to ensure sanitation throughout the facility.
- Humane handling is our top priority.
From the time that a producer backs up to the gate to unload, there is absolutely no room for error in the handling these animals. The USDA inspectors and the state veterinarians on-site closely monitor the plant staff to ensure that all humane handling procedures are followed. Any observed violation or abuse would result in swift and profound action by these government officials.
- Sanitation is our top priority.
My momma use to say, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” and this same mindset is embraced by the USDA. We clean before we start operation; we clean throughout operation; and we clean after we finish operation. Equipment is broken down daily, and inspectors are always onsite to ensure that food safety is never compromised.
- Record-keeping is a full-time job.
Through the implementation of HACCP, plants now have the ability to generate their own procedures for operation. However, everything stated in the HACCP must be supported by scientific documentation and detailed record-keeping. Daily monitoring logs must be completed for every process, and a second person must directly observe the individual preforming the task. These individuals sign-off on forms, but plant management must also preform record reviews and affirm that all procedures were followed and accurately documented. Needless to say, in my very small facility, we have two bookshelves that contain nothing but documentation supporting our HACCP.
- We use math and science daily.
I remember learning about logarithms in Algebra and thinking, “I am never going to use this”…but, boy, was a wrong! All of our value-added meat processes rely heavily on math and science, and it is imperative that plant management have a strong background in these subjects when trying to support product safety.
- You meet interesting people.
Since opening my facility, I have been introduced to some pretty amazing people. Military veterans starting a second career in agriculture…former teachers using livestock to promote agriotourism…National FFA officers leading the next generation…elected officials proudly serving our state… all with the common goal of advancing our agricultural industry.
- Your labels are our business.
As a USDA-inspected facility, I am responsible for overseeing the compliance of all products that are produced under my establishment number. You may not like when I tell you certain words can’t be used without a special claim or when I ask questions about your operation, but it’s not because I’m being difficult…I just want to ensure that both of our names stay off the recall list due to mislabeling!
- Not all slaughterhouses are created equal.
I am a relatively new slaughterhouse owner, and I have been blessed with amazing customers. However, I have no desire to compete with ____ facility down the road, and I really don’t care if my staff does things a little different than other processors. We have made the decisions that work for our business, and we encourage our producers to do the same.
- Punctuality matters.
The USDA allows processors only 8-hours of service per day without being penalized for overtime. Therefore, it is extremely important that our customers arrive on time and unload as quickly as possible. We realize that stuff happens on a farm and that livestock are unpredictable; however, loading your animals the night before or a simple phone call when you are running late are crucial in helping your processor avoid unnecessary overtime fees.
10. We love animals.
The media would have you believe that slaughterhouse workers are savages who thrive off hurting innocent animals, but nothing could be further from the truth! In reality, we are the same people who bring newborn calves into our kitchen during a snow storm and who tear up during the Sarah McLaughlin commercials. We slow down for turtles crossing the road, and we support our local animal shelters. We love animals, and we value their role in our environment and in our food supply.