A meat inspector is a food safety professional who examines meat to be consumed by humans to guarantee their flesh and organs are free of disease, harmful bacteria and other contaminants. He examines animals prior to their slaughter to determine they are free of abnormalities, sickness or infection. He scrutinizes them subsequent to slaughter for the same maladies. Poultry and eggs are generally inspected separately and by different standards particular to the industry.
Besides examining the animals, a meat inspector examines the vehicles used to transport them as well as the slaughterhouses and meat packing plants through which they pass. He is schooled in what standards must be met as dictated by local and regional governments and authorities. Knowledge of foreign criterion for safety is necessary if the meat is being imported.
Along with checking the physical and sanitary conditions of the transporting vehicles and processing facilities, a meat inspector verifies the ingredients used in processing and preserving the meat. He also guarantees the meat conforms to industry-established standards of purity and grading. Making sure the meat is not mislabeled is also an important job of a meat inspector.
Products containing meat or meat by-products are also examined for safety and quality by a meat inspector. These include smoked and cured meats, canned goods and frozen entrees and dinners. Dried meat products such as jerky also undergo careful inspection.
A meat inspector is customarily required to have a good eye for detail. He must generally keep thorough records of his observations regarding meat products from his inspections at the slaughterhouse through delivery to retail and wholesale sales locations. Good communication skills are required to identify and resolve any discrepancies he may find. His integrity and honesty typically are required to ensure the safety and health of consumers.
The educational qualifications to become a meat inspector vary. Some regions require the inspector to be a doctor of veterinary medication to qualify for the job. Other meat inspecting jobs require a four-year college degree, preferably in agricultural, physical or biological sciences or a related field.
Most applicants must have a minimum of one year’s experience in a food processing, production or packaging environment. A demonstrated ability to understand and apply quality control and industry standards is strongly preferred. In some sectors of the industry, meat inspectors who are not veterinarians are required to work with a veterinarian during initial inspections of livestock.