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The activities of the meat sector may be divided into three stages - slaughtering, meat cutting and further processing. Each stage involves completely different technical operations which must not be viewed as separate and independent processes. There are significant interactions between the stages and shortcomings at one stage can have a serious negative impact on the product or process in a subsequent stage. They may influence technological, biochemical or microbiological aspects.

Improper slaughtering techniques such as faulty stunning, bleeding, skinning, evisceration and carcass splitting can damage parts of the carcass and certain byproducts and make them unsuitable for further use. Poor standards of hygiene during slaughtering or carcass handling result in high levels of mirobial contamination in the meat, thus reducing the shelf-life and adversely affecting the sensoric properties of products fabricated from this raw material. Although controls imposed on the meat industries have become more stringent and effective, improper treatment of slaughter animals and poor meat-handling techniques persist in many meat plants. These problems are evident in many developing countries. Apart from deficiencies in veterinary meat inspection, which is not the subject of this publication, serious shortcomings with regard to general meat hygiene and meat technology can frequently be observed. This is to some extent due to the lack of adequate facilities in the meat sector in developing countries, but carelessness and lack of skills on the part of the personnel involved in meat operations are also important factors.

The purpose of these guidelines is to disseminate practical information on meat hygiene and meat technology to meat industry personnel, such as supervisors and extensionists, and to provide the necessary encouragement for improving production in the meat sector and reducing post-harvest losses. The guidelines comprise basic techniques in slaughtering, meat cutting and further processing and the respective hygienic regulations applicable to both the small-scale and the medium-sized meat plants. Adherence to these basic guidelines would contribute to the production and consumption of safe, good-quality meat and meat products.

Since there is a wide variety of procedures and products in the meat sector all over the world, some technologies and names of meat cuts and meat products known locally may differ slightly from the terms and descriptions used in this publication. However, the technological, microbiological and biochemical properties of the raw material (meat) do not vary significantly and the guidelines given in this publication can easily be adapted to local conditions.

Where appropriate, reference is made to the traditional meat-handling methods without refrigeration, since these conditions are likely to prevail in the near future in many developing countries, particularly in rural areas. On the other hand, in view of the growing populations not only in urban but also in rural areas, refrigeration as a means of meat preservation will become more and more important and information on these aspects is included. Refrigeration of meat will also have a positive impact on the introduction of further processing of meat in developing regions, since refrigerated meat under suitable hygienic conditions is essential for most meat-processing operations.

Furthermore, the strict adherence to general hygienic rules in the meat industry can minimize food-borne diseases. These guidelines can therefore also play a useful role in the public health sector.