Part III: From Carcass to Cooler to Cut and Wrap

To view our meat processing video Part III: From Carcass to Cooler to Cut and Wrap* click here.

* (c) Niche Meat Processor Assistance Network 2009

Audio Text
In this video, you’ll see how the two mobile slaughter unit butchers clean and prepare a carcass neatly and efficiently.

First, they remove the head, saving out the tongue. Then they move the carcass down to the cradle to remove the feet and begin skinning. The hide is taken off gradually, as the carcass is cleaned and can be raised off the cradle. Any dirt remaining on the hide is washed off before skinning.

On this farm, all wash water is allowed to run off onto the ground. Other counties or states may require a unit to collect its wash water in holding tanks for off-site disposal.

Next is evisceration, removal of the intestines and other internal organs. Some of these, like the liver and heart, are considered “variety meats,” which are put into their own basin and rinsed with water. The inspector will inspect these, looking for signs of disease. This animal passes inspection.

The offal is pushed out of the unit through its own door onto the grass outside. The butcher denatures it by marking it with dye.

The hide is now entirely removed and put into a barrel marked “inedibles.” It will be taken back to the cut and wrap facility for disposal.

The state of Washington allows offal, including specified risk materials or SRMs, to be composted on the farm. This farmer follows guidelines developed by Cornell University Extension. In this pile, the offal is broken down in a few weeks, but he will wait a full year before applying it to land. Bones are screened out before the compost is applied to fields.

If the farm does not compost these materials, they must be put in watertight containers – offal separated from SRMs – and returned to the cut and wrap facility for disposal: offal is picked up by a renderer, and SRMs go to the landfill.

Back at the unit, with evisceration complete, the butcher now splits the carcass. The halves are trimmed carefully and then presented for inspection.

The carcass halves are then washed with water, and then sprayed with an organic acid solution to remove pathogens that may have contacted the carcass surface.

Paperwork is completed, to document that all required procedures were followed.

The last step is sliding the clean, split carcass halves into the cooler. The carcasses must cool to below 40 Fahrenheit within 24 hours.

When all carcasses are clean and in the cooler, the butchers clean the unit from top to bottom. The concrete pad, grass, and/or dirt are cleaned with water provided by the farm.

After a long day, the mobile unit leaves the farm, bound for the USDA inspected cut and wrap facility, which is on the mainland, in Bow. The cut & wrap is 75 minutes away, including a short ferry ride.

All USDA inspected mobile units must deliver carcasses to a USDA inspected cut and wrap. The Island Grown Farmers’ Cooperative operates its own cut and wrap, in a leased facility. Other groups with MSUs partner with existing cut and wrap businesses.

At the plant, the MSU hooks up to a rail system, to offload the carcasses into the plant’s cooler. Here, they will be hung for aging, and then processed into packages of meat, ready for retail sale.


This video project was funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Many thanks to Bruce Dunlop and the Island Grown Farmers Cooperative; Yer Vue, Xang Chang, and Chris Benedict at Washington State University; and Zach Mull.

This is a Niche Meat Processor Association article and was reviewed for compliance with federal, state, and local regulations by members of the NMPAN community. Consult with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and/or the appropriate state or local regulators before making changes in your operation. For more information, refer to NMPAN’s articles on mobile slaughter units.

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