Meat Industry Services

Food Safety Interventions Information

Click on the links below to access information on interventions available at each stage of the meat production process

Contents Page Introduction to Interventions On Farm Processing - hide on Processing - hide off Chilling Packaging or Retail

Processing: Hide On

Interventions applicable to the live animal, or to the body before skinning

The hide is one of the major sources of carcass contamination. It is important to keep the hides clean prior to skinning, and preslaughter conditions can have a marked impact both on visual cleanliness and microbial load. Cleaning of the hide may be carried out while the animal is alive, although excessive handling can lead to poor quality meat, or following stunning and sticking, before skinning takes place.

Clipping or shearing of sheep prior to slaughter is widely practised in many countries, the entire fleece being removed in countries where the wool market is good, and in other countries, merely the belly being clipped to reduce the potential for fleece contamination of the carcass during skinning. Full shearing is normally carried out prior to slaughter, but “bellying out” may be carried out on the bleed rail. Clipping of cattle hides has been advocated as a method of removing visible tag and contamination, and the brisket, belly and hind legs are targeted. This process, when carried out on the live animal involves considerable operator risk, as the animals often kick out and are confined in unsuitable crushes for the purpose. Clipping of cattle immediately prior to slaughter results in numerous short clippings of hair being present on the hide, and these are observed to be transferred to the carcass during the skinning process. Clipping also increases the microbial load recoverable from cattle hide by swabbing, probably as a result of these free short hairs. Singeing of the cattle hide after clipping can give the greatest reductions in recoverable microbial load when compared to washing with warm water (50 °C) or washing with a food-safe chemical solution.

Chemicals can be used, as part of a wash step, to clean the hides before hide removal with the aim of lowering microbial contamination. Compounds such as sodium hydroxide, trisodium phosphate, acidified chlorine (sodium hypochlorite with acetic acid), and phosphoric acid have been evaluated for this purpose. These chemicals do not have a neutral pH, and thus a water rinse is needed to remove the residual chemical and to minimise exposure to risks for plant personnel. There have also been investigations into the use of steam condensing at sub-atmospheric pressures for the treatment of hide-on cattle.

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Hide on
Intervention Type
Surface treatment of hide
Treatment Time
10-30 seconds
Restrictions are related to chemical usage
Conflicting reports depending on chemicals used
Likely Cost
To set up water supply, pumps, chemical storage and effluent treatment for a plant of 500 head per day would be hundreds of thousands of dollars
Value for Money
Other technologies, applied after hide removal, are likely to be more effective.
Plant or Process Changes

Significant space would be needed for installation of baths or cleaning units

Environmental Impact

Production of water effluent and chemicals.

Large amounts of water and energy would be required
Occupational Health and Safety

Chemicals would need to be properly stored and handled

Concentrates and diluted chemicals may be irritant

Reduces visible soil entering the process

Cleaner skins allows slaughter personnel to keep their hands and tools cleaner

Having a wet hide freshly washed may remove some of the loose hide hairs and reduce some of the contamination from individual hairs which have a zero tolerance score

Has been used in the sheep industry to wash pelts prior to slaughter and is seen as a hygiene advantage

Disadvantages or Limitations
Could stress animals if applied to the live animal, which would result in tougher meat (DFD).


Lairage Hygiene

Animal hide washing or dehairing

Information on solutions or techniques that may be used:

Organic Acids

Peroxy acid

Electrolysed Water

Cetylpyridinium Chloride (CPC)

Steam Vacuuming

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