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What Is the Meat Processing Industry?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 27 August 2016
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The meat processing industry includes any business, person, or entity that has a hand in the processing of meat, the distribution and sale of the final product, and even the advertising of those products. Processing meat involves slaughtering animals, cutting the meat, inspecting it to ensure it is safe for consumption, packaging it, processing it into other products such as sausage or lunch meats, delivering it to stores, and selling it to customers. Ranchers who raise the animals may also be considered an integral part of the meat processing industry, since they will supply the raw materials to make certain food products.

Butchers are an important part of the meat processing industry, as these people are responsible for cleaning and cutting the meat from the animal carcass. Butchers often work in slaughterhouses, locations at which cattle and other animals are killed, skinned, and cleaned so the meat can be used for food. A butcher may also work at a grocery store or meat market, cutting the meat ordered from distributors. The meat processing industry is a separate entity from the meat packing industry, however; processing involves taking the meat in its raw form and turning it into another product that is marketable, safe for consumption, and attractive to consumers. Butchers will therefore have a hand in this processing as well.

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Packaging is often an important part of the meat processing industry, since processed meats often take on forms that are not natural shapes. Sausage, for example, is sometimes sold in tube-like packages sealed on either end with a metal clasp. Hot dogs are sold in bunches of eight in many cases, and they are usually contained in a plastic pouch. Lunch meats can be packaged a number of different ways depending on the size and quantity of the meat being sold.

Advertising the processed meat can be a challenge, especially in societies that value nutrition over flavor or ease of use. Processed meats can be unhealthy in many cases because of chemicals added to the meat during processing, as well as fat and cholesterol inherent in meat consumption. Advertisers can be hired to stress the nutritional benefits of the processed meat, as well as other advantages of the product, to show consumers the disadvantages do not outweigh the potential benefits of purchasing the product. Advertisers can also create logos, designing artwork for packaging, developing slogans, and much more.

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pastanaga
Post 3

@Iluviaporos - Chemicals aside, I don't see why people get upset over this. It's just using the whole animal carcass, which is something I think should be done if possible. There's no reason to get squeamish about eating the organs when we're perfectly happy eating the muscles.

If anything, they say that meat processing tends to take out a lot of the goodness that traditional farmers and hunters would get from their meat, because we only eat very specific parts instead of everything.

lluviaporos
Post 2

@Mor - That actually sounds less disgusting than most sausage processing. It usually involves getting the meat from carcasses that have already been through meat processing, and that usually means either vibrating the leftover scraps from the bones, or taking them off with some kind of chemical.

Then they mix it with the equivalent of a mixture of breadcrumbs and lard and pour it into synthetic skins.

It's the tail end of the meat industry and they are definitely right when they say that most people don't want to know what goes into their sausages and hot dogs. Even the higher quality ones are generally made with stuff that couldn't be used for anything else.

Mor
Post 1

I was once lucky enough (depending on your definition of the word "luck") to witness sausages being made the traditional way for a festival in West Africa. It was a day when everyone would slaughter a sheep and invite over guests to join in the feasting and one of the first things that got made and cooked (aside from the liver, which I can't stand) was sausages. I'm not sure why they were made so early in the process, but I imagine it had something to do with preservation. I think the bits that weren't used in the sausages were easier to preserve or cook in stews.

They basically just shoved bits of meat and onions and herbs and fat into intestinal skins and then cooked the whole thing over an open fire. Which sounds disgusting but it was absolutely delicious.

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