In order to produce clean carcasses, cow slaughter operators adopt various recommended practices, making use of the latest technology to reduce possible pathogenic contamination. Hygienic and humane handling of cows, using fresh and uncontaminated water supply and maintaining cleanliness at the slaughter floor and other operational areas is absolutely essential during the cow slaughter process, which involves numerous steps.
Receiving and Unloading
The livestock is brought to the slaughter plant in special trailers, where they are unloaded. The unloading is done in a humane manner, so that the animals are not injured. Typically, the receiving and unloading of cattle is supervised by designated plant personnel. Furthermore, the personnel also check the written statement given by the cattle supplier stating that the cows were not fed banned ruminant feed.
The cows are then transferred to a holding area, where they are fed and given water. The time spent in the holding area allows the plant personnel to check the cows for possible E. coli contamination. Personnel check cows for mud and dung on the hide which could be contaminated with the bacterium. The feed is stopped to facilitate evisceration and processing, depending on when the cows are due for slaughtering.
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Before slaughtering, cows are washed thoroughly to remove dirt and dust, as this could contaminate the slaughter floor as well as the meat. Some abattoirs may just mist the cows to remove the superficial dust, instead of washing them.
To make the slaughtering process as humane as possible, abattoirs use different stunning methods. The cows are restrained in a stunning box. The most common method of stunning is the captive bolt method, which uses a gun to fire a blank cartridge. The cartridge propels a metallic bolt to pierce the skull and damage the brain. This stuns the animal and prevents movement.
If the slaughtering process follows Jewish or Islamic slaughter, then the animal is first bled. No stunning method is used before the bleeding. A small incision, 30 cm long, is cut into the side of the cow's neck to expose the jugular vein. The vein is cut to drain the blood from the cow. The vein is cut at a 45 degree angle. In regular slaughterhouses, the bleeding is carried out soon after stunning to prevent the animal from regaining consciousness or to prevent the blood vessels from rupturing and leaking into the muscles due to high blood pressure.
Hide removal is tricky and the success of this procedure depends on the efficiency and experience of the employees handling it. Depending on the establishment, manual or mechanical hide removal procedure is followed. In the manual procedure, sharp knives are used to slowly remove the hide from the underlying flesh. In the mechanical procedure of hide removal, a hide puller is used.
Separating Various Body Parts
The slaughter floor employees make incisions to separate the bung without touching the carcass in order to avoid contamination. This is followed by brisket opening and head removal. During the head removal, dehorning and ear removal takes place. Then evisceration takes place wherein the viscera are removed and processed. The viscera are removed intact from the body and the processing is done in such a manner so that no contamination takes place. The spinal cord removal of the cow takes place at the slaughter floor and this is followed by trimming to remove visible contamination.
Washing the Carcass
The carcass is washed thoroughly to remove bone dust, blood specks and hair. It also helps to prepare the carcass for chilling and storage. Slaughter houses use manual washing or mechanical washing methods to ensure that the entire carcass is washed thoroughly to prevent any form of contamination. Once the washing is complete, the carcass is transferred to a hot box for chilling.