meatboardDr Orr is a retired veterinarian, who worked as a veterinary pathologist at Invermay for 20 yrs.
From 1993 to 1999 she was on AWAC and contributed largely to the writing of the CORMS for the welfare of Sheep and then the Code of Welfare for Dogs.
She was in MAF's Animals Welfare Group and wrote many media releases for MAF on stock welfare.
In 2002 she qualified as an Inspector under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 and held the warrant until 2013.
From 2008 unto 2013 she was Education Manager at the Otago SPCA.
Since 2002 she has been an independent free-lance writer.


Rod Slater is correct in some of his responses to my article on home-kill vs meat works meat, however as he rightly points out, when I said home-kill was 'better' I was focussing on better welfare for the animals and a better financial deal for the farmer (who can make use of the whole carcase). I believe that these are issues that are important to most lifestyle farmers.

On the other points that Rod has raised:

Meat quality. It is often said by those who have tasted both that home-kill meat is of better quality. This is borne out by scientific studies that state that high stress levels before slaughter have a negative effect on meat quality, resulting in poorer flavour, lower acceptability, darker colour and decreased shelf-life (Gregory*). Pre-slaughter transport, swim and spray washing and fasting can all cause significant stress. At the works, post-slaughter low voltage electrical stimulation is sometimes used to tenderise meat. However nothing can fully replace the glycogen lost as a result of the cumulative effect of pre-slaughter stresses. The loss of glycogen means muscle pH rises and this contributes to reduced quality. The stock may be 'rested' in lairage but they are unlikely to be contentedly chewing their cud, because they are empty, hungry and anxious. It has been shown that a prolonged wait in lairage doesn't allow repletion of glycogen and in some cases it exacerbates the problem of high pH meat (Petersen**). Note that the smaller lines from lifestyle farms may well be put at the end of the waiting list in lairage in large slaughter plants.

Food safety. Rod is correct in saying that meat works have more control over the safety of their meat post slaughter, and indeed this is one reason why home-kill meat cannot be sold. However it has been conclusively proved that while pre-slaughter washing may decrease visible contamination it actually increases the bacterial contamination of the carcases***.

Animal welfare. It is good to see that the number of washes that stock are subjected to in lairage has dropped in recent years but swim washing (along long water-filled concrete races) is still carried out routinely in many plants, as is high-pressure cold water spray washing. The wash may be repeated, and sometimes even a third wash is carried out. Both swim- and spray-washes are very stressful procedures, particularly for older and thin stock like cull dairy cows and particularly in cold winter weather. Washing is likely to be particularly stressful for goats, especially those that haven't been handled much. Goats should surely not be washed at all.

Lifestyle farmers need to know these things so that they can make well-informed decisions about the ultimate fate of their animals. What goes on in lairage goes on behind closed doors and I suspect that many lifestyle farmers are not aware of lairage practices. Feedback from suppliers and potential customers is needed, to encourage the meat companies to take genuine steps to improve stock welfare. Hopefully in future they will make more use of incentive payments to farmers who send in clean stock (crutched or shorn as appropriate), and perhaps they could make more use of warm water and warm air drying areas, they could cease swim washing and or spraying of goats and wash only the stock that arrive dirty instead of routinely washing all lines.

In the meantime, if lifestyle farmers have only a few animals to slaughter, they might like to consider using a reputable licensed home-kill operator.

References

*Gregory, NG: www.thebeefsite.com/articles/454/meat-quality-ad-animal-welfare
**Petersen, GV: http://hdlhandle.net/10179/3580
***Biss, M and Hathaway, S (1996) NZVetJ, 44:2,55-60
***Biss, MA and Hathaway, S (1998) NZVetJ, 46:5, 167-172

Go to top