Abattoir

Abattoir Equipment

Over the centuries, the slaughter process has become more efficient. This is due to the increased mechanization of the industry. Abattoirs are common-place forms of slaughterhouses that incorporate assembly-line styled processes to maximize production and process the most amount of meat for human consumption in a short period of time. There are a number of machines that are used in this process and as each species varies greatly, there are a number of different machines that are species-specific.

Transport

Poultry are aligned on a conveyor, hung by their feet and led through the plant. Other animals such as swine, cattle, and sheep are sent through a series of holding pens, and then onto a conveyor system, which systematically churns the animals through the abattoir with affiance and effectiveness. Common machinery includes a V-shaped conveyor for sheep, cattle delivering machines that move them along the line, and the pig plate transfer which shifts the pig down the line after stunning.

Stunning

Pigs, sheep, and cattle are generally stunned with an electrical current. Smaller operations may opt for manual electro-shock machines, which are less efficient but highly effective, while larger plants use more volume producing items such as three-point heart and brain stunners. Pigs are also commonly gassed with CO2, which eliminates the need for human interaction, which provides more efficiency in the process. Poultry are also stunned, but are commonly run through an electrified water solution, as they are hung upside-down and pass through the stunners.

Elimination of Hair and Feathers

Once the animal is stunned and slaughtered, the carcass must pass through a number of machines and processes to remove hair, feathers, and other unnecessary items. Pigs and poultry undergo a process called scalding. These machines, (called scalders), emit high-temperature waters or vapours onto the carcass, softening and loosening hairs and feathers. Once the poultry and pigs are scalded, they pass through plucking or de-hairing machines. Plucking machines incorporate hot water and revolving drums and rubber beaters which strike the birds and release the feathers. Pigs are sent through a de-hairer and then hand-scrubbed to remove excess hair. If this does not remove all of the hair, the remaining hairs are singed off with propane flames. Sheep and cattle are de-hided. De-hiding machines hold the carcass upside-down and strip the headless carcass of its skin and hide but using mechanical grippers and a downward pulling motion. The mechanical skin splitting machine is also used for cattle and involves a similar process.

Portions

Portions of meat are separated by reciprocating saws. The cattle are cut once length-wise down the spine and once through the cross-section. Pigs are cut only length-wise, and sheep are left whole. Chicken and poultry are rid of their feet and portioned whole.

All of this abattoir equipment is necessary to keep the slaughterhouse moving efficiently and safely. Local butcheries do not use these types of machinery and, therefore the price is reflected as much of the hard work must be done by hand in these cases. The abattoir equipment of today is a vast improvement for industry as the meat industry is an immensely large one.