Producing meat healthy way
Meat and meat products are commonly used by a large number of people in Nepal although there is a drive for strict vegetarianism. Commercialization of meat and meat products are on the rise in our country and there is every sign that it will continue to do so. Common people buy meat from the public and private slaughterhouses without really caring for the quality and hygiene nor do they have ideas about the possible means of storage of surplus meat. This piece intends to provide some basic knowledge about the hygienic production of meat, its quality standards and the different means of preservation.
Fresh meat has been and will be a major source of nourishment for the vast majority of people in the world and so too a large number of people in Nepal. The modem commercialized dealing of meat is mostly done after its processing and preservation. Meat is a very good source of protein and energy, but due to contamination it often becomes a source of many diseases also. Hence the quality of meat is an important aspect of its production, sale and consumption. It is very important that common people should be aware of the various aspects of meat production, its hygienic standards and the ways of preservation.
Human body requires water, protein, fat, carbohydrate, mineral salts including trace elements and vitamins. Meat can furnish all these nutrients much more realistically than any other food items except milk and eggs. Though the quality and composition of meat differ depending upon type of animal, in general all types of meat contain all the nutrients required by the human body. People consume meat from a wide variety of domestic and wild animals.
Nutritive Value of Meat
Meat contains all the nutrients, especially proteins and amino acids. It has relatively high proportion of ingredients, energy content, ability to build and replace body tissues, high biological value and high absorbability in the body mechanism.
Wholesome Meat Production
For the production of wholesome meat that is safe for the consumer, certain hygienic standards should be followed at all stages of meat production. Following are the effective processes and/or measures to produce safe and hygienic meat.
1. Rest before slaughter
Animals should be given sufficient rest before they are slaughtered. They should also be provided with plenty of water. However, they should be fed limited amount of food about one hour before the slaughter.
2. Examination before slaughter
In order to eliminate weak and diseased ones, careful examination of the animals should be done. Only those animals which produce carcasses of quality and nourishment should be slaughtered.
Slaughtering and bleeding should be handled with care without any excitement and should be completed before preparing the meat. The carcass should be examined thoroughly in order to eliminate all diseased material. If this is not done, the meat is unfit for human consumption. While separating the contaminated portions, great care should be taken to ensure that the edible portions of the carcass do not get infected. Also to prevent the contamination of carcass, all cleaning operations of dressing the carcass, should be separately done from the filthy operations like clearing of stomachs, guts, etc.
4. General sanitation
To prevent any kind of contamination in the edible meat, strict environmental sanitation control methods should be adopted during transportation and sale in markets. Apart from this, personal hygiene of the persons involved in slaughtering, dressing and handling of meat and meat products is equally important. In the interest of public health, they should undergo medical examinations on a regular basis. This may not be practicable always, so at least when the person is ill, he/she should not be allowed to handle operations at any stage.
Besides, all the equipments used during meat processing should be disinfected before use and kept clean. Meat and meat products should be stored in fool proof containers, and must be refrigerated especially during summer and/or if they are to be stored for a long time before sale. It is always better to have refrigeration facilities during transportation also. To ensure the production of pure and safe meat, it is essential to have a systematized inspection by a skilled and trained person. The meat inspectors should carry out ante- and post-mortem examination of the animals. Another important duty of meat inspectors is to ensure that meat is handled under hygienic conditions right from the slaughtering house until it reaches to the consumer.
In countries in the South Asian region, there are two types of slaughterhouses – public slaughterhouses that are managed and controlled by public bodies and local municipal administration, and privately owned slaughterhouses. All cities or towns have one or more public slaughterhouses, whereas rural areas mainly have private slaughterhouses.
Both types of slaughterhouses lack qualified staff of veterinarians as meat inspectors. Likewise, most do not have proper infrastructural facilities. Meat produced in facilities without proper ventilation and proper drainage cannot be expected to be of high quality. Although the meat is consumed after being cooked thoroughly and carefully does not posing much threat to the consumers, it is not the correct practice.
The government has said it will take steps to renovate the present slaughterhouses introducing improved technologies. This scheme of provision of improved types of slaughterhouses has not received enthusiastic support from the public bodies as it involves expenditure to ensure maintenance of satisfactory hygienic condition. However, this drawback can be considerably reduced by using slaughterhouse waste.
On the other hand, small abattoirs (slaughterhouses) can be constructed on a cooperative basis for a group of few neighboring villages. Slaughtering can be allowed only for fixed hours and a veterinarian can be employed as meat inspector who can advise on general sanitary conditions and safe handling of animals while slaughter. To meet sanitary requirements for the production of wholesome and safe meat the following broad principles should be observed when constructing the slaughter houses.
1. The slaughterhouse should be constructed away from residential areas, at a higher elevation than adjoining ground so that rainwater is prevented from entering it, carrying the dirt from the surrounding areas.
2. In order to protect the animals (before slaughtering) from cold and heat, ample space should be allocated for pens.
3. The slaughterhouses should have good ventilation, abundant light, ample supply of clean water and efficient drainage.
4. The doors and windows should be fitted with fly-proof shutters.
5. The floor and the inner surface of the walls of the slaughter houses should be made of impervious materials so as to ensure thorough cleaning. Good facilities for disinfection of instruments, utensils etc. should be provided in every slaughterhouse.
6. Every possible ways of driving out the flies, rats, mice, vermins etc should be adopted. It is better to avoid chemical preventive measures for this in the slaughter house.
7. Slaughterhouses should contain staff welfare rooms with minimum necessary facilities.
Ceremonial monitoring of slaughterhouses and meat shops by government authorities are not likely to produce tangible results except mere fanfare and cheap publicity. Clean and healthy meat production depends upon ensuring certain minimum infrastructural requirements in slaughterhouses and meat shops as mentioned above. Only then we can expect clean and healthy meat in our kitchen.
(Dr Karki has a M.V.Sc in Preventive Medicine in Public health from Philippines, and PGT Meat inspection and slaughter house management from India)