An inside look at beef processing

A video tour inside a large beef processing operation brings transparency to the process.

Ever wonder what happens between delivering a beef animal to a meat processing plant and eating a juicy steak or hamburger?

Tours are hard for companies to accommodate due to safety of visitors, animals and workers. Most plants simply do not have extra space for visitors to safely view what is happening at each step. A video showing the process and inside of a beef packing plant is available from the American Meat Institute’s Glass Walls Project. The video is narrated by Dr. Temple Grandin, world renowned expert on animal handling and humane slaughter. Farmers, truck drivers and meat plant employees handle animals with care. Humane animal handing and slaughter are required by the U. S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service.

The video focuses on the slaughter process and includes the use of a captive bolt stunner that instantly makes the animal unconscious and insensitive to pain. Animals are bled, hides and internal organs are removed. Additionally, carcasses are split and interventions such as carcass washing occur to improve food safety. Carcasses are cooled for 24 to 48 hours and then cut into wholesale primal and subprimal cuts to be sold.

Dr. Grandin’s research has been very influential in improving animal handling and facilities at beef processing plants. Processing plants that take animal handling seriously regularly train and monitor their employees about proper handling techniques. These improvements have added benefits of improved meat quality including decreased bruises and reduced chance of dark cutters.

Proper animal handling is part of guidelines established in Beef Quality Assurance practices that needs to occur on farms and in processing plants. Michigan State University Extension will offer an Update on Feeding Strategies and Beef Quality Assurance Training on Jan. 29, 2013 from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Huron Expo Center in Bad Axe and on January 30, 2014 from 5:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. at the Kent County MSU Extension Office in Grand Rapids. Pre-registration is required and available online. Bring your farm employees that work directly with cattle handling, processing and feeding.

Other articles in this series:

An inside look at pork processing

An inside look at turkey processing 

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