Meat production and hygiene

How to produce hygienic and safe meat for human consumption, identify hazards in food production, and comply with EU and FSA regulations.

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It is important that high levels of hygiene are maintained in any business that handles food for human consumption. A range of legislation now exists that governs the management of livestock and their slaughter, and at all stages of the food preparation process, hygiene must be your priority.

The Food Hygiene Regulations 2006 are based on the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles. The principles are used to identify any potential safety hazards in the production of food.

The meat industry is governed by a strict set of practices and legislation. The guide will give you a complete overview of your responsibilities for meat hygiene.

The Meat Industry Guide

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has produced a detailed guide to food hygiene and other regulations’ requirements and best practices for the UK Meat Industry. This guide is relevant to those UK food businesses that slaughter animals for human consumption, dress carcasses, cut or process meat, particularly those establishments that are subject to approval and veterinary control. This is often referred to as the Meat Industry Guide (MIG), and covers:

  • the legal obligations with which all meat plant operators must comply
  • how meat plant operators can meet their legal obligations
  • the application of HACCP principles

Note that the MIG contains only guidance. As a meat plant operator, you can if you wish use other systems to ensure your business fully complies with the current meat hygiene regulations. Also, the MIG is not a complete interpretation of the current meat hygiene law. If in doubt about your business’s compliance, always seek qualified legal advice.

For more information on FSA legal and best practice guidance for the meat industry, download the full MIG from the FSA website (PDF, 2.98MB).

Regulations for butchers

If you run a butchery business, there are a number of regulations that you must comply with.

Definition of ‘meat’

Meat definitions in the UK were formerly governed by the Meat Products and Spreadable Fish Products Regulations 1984. These were replaced by the Meat Products Regulations in 2003.

The new definition in the Meat Products Regulations in 2003 describes meat as “skeletal muscle with naturally included or attached tissue”, and sets limits for the amount of fat and connective tissue (rind, tendon, sinew and skin) allowed.  

Quantitative Ingredient Declarations (QUIDs)

Any food sold loose and not prepacked that contains ‘European Community meat’ as defined above needs to be labelled with a QUID.

The following foods do not need a QUID:

  • mince and other meat sold on its own with no other ingredients
  • sandwiches and filled rolls
  • pizzas and similar products
  • single portion salads
  • food sold from a catering premises

To read about QUIDs and how to present the information to the consumer, download summary guidance for butchers from the FSA website (PDF, 45KB).

You can also download detailed guidance on meat labelling and composition from the FSA website (PDF, 221KB).

Hygiene regulations for wild game

Any business involved in the shooting or supply of wild game for human consumption has a responsibility to ensure high levels of meat hygiene are maintained at all times.

These businesses are also required to:

  • register with their local authority
  • ensure that people hunting and handling wild game meat have the appropriate training
  • comply with traceability requirements
  • ensure that the game is stored, prepared and transported at hygienic temperatures
  • apply for approved game handling establishment status if processing wild game at a place of business and if supply is wider than the supply of small quantities to the final consumer or to retail outlets directly supplying the final consumer

The FSA has produced a complete guide to hygiene regulations for people who shoot wild game and supply it in-fur or in-feather or as game meat directly to the final consumer or to local retail outlets supplying the final consumer. For more information you can find wild game guidance on the FSA website.

The Clean Livestock Policy

After the E. coli outbreak in Scotland in 1996, the FSA issued guidelines for keeping livestock in a clean and hygienic condition to prevent the spread of foodborne disease. The policy is designed to make sure that all cattle and sheep presented for slaughter conform to an acceptable level of hygiene to prevent food poisoning caused by dirt or faeces on the animal’s coat.

Under the policy, the FSA inspects animals during the slaughter process to make sure no contamination has taken place. Any animal that does not meet minimum levels of cleanliness as set out in the policy will be rejected for further processing.

Download guidance on clean cattle for slaughter for producers from the FSA website (PDF, 1.56MB).

Download guidance on red meat safety from the FSA website (PDF, 1.10MB).

There is also a similar policy relating to the slaughter of sheep.

Download guidance on clean sheep for slaughter from the FSA website (PDF, 1.09MB).

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point principles

In order to protect consumers against any contamination of their food, the HACCP principles were developed. HACCP is an internationally recognised system for food safety management.

It is the responsibility of all food business operators to ensure that the food they produce is safe to eat. If you are an operator, then you must ensure you put in place food safety management procedures and working practices, and be able to prove that this has been done.

To produce safe food for consumers, all the important safety hazards that are associated with the production of food need to be identified and then prevented, eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level. These food safety hazards may be biological, physical or chemical.

The seven HACCP principles provide a systematic way of identifying food safety hazards, making sure that they are being managed responsibly and showing that this is being done day-in, day-out.

This involves the following steps:

  • plan - decide what needs to be done to ensure food safety and write it down
  • do - carry out your plan of action
  • check - monitor your HACCP activity and record what has been checked and when
  • act - take action when food safety is at risk and write it down

The seven HACCP principles are:

  • identify any hazards that must be prevented eliminated or reduced to acceptable levels
  • identify the critical control points (CCPs) at the step or steps at which control is essential to prevent or eliminate a hazard or to reduce it to acceptable levels
  • establish critical limits at CCPs
  • establish procedures to monitor the CCPs
  • establish corrective actions to be taken if a CCP is not under control
  • establish procedures to verify whether the above procedures are working effectively
  • establish documents and records to demonstrate the effective application of the above measures

Home slaughter of livestock

In some cases, livestock may be slaughtered outside an approved slaughterhouse.

The term ‘home slaughter’ means the slaughter of a livestock animal by the animal’s owner outside of an approved slaughterhouse on their property for their own personal consumption, or for the consumption of members of their immediate family, provided that the requirements of Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy legislation have been met.

Home slaughter should be distinguished from ‘private slaughter’ in a legally approved slaughterhouse. This is when the owner of the animal sends it to an approved slaughterhouse to be slaughtered, and the carcass is returned to the owner.

Download a guide to home slaughter regulation in Scotland from the FSA website (PDF, 135KB).

Download a guide to home slaughter regulation in Northern Ireland from the FSA website (PDF, 122KB).

Download a guide to home slaughter regulation in Wales from the FSA website (PDF, 132KB).

If you have any doubt about the legal status of the slaughter you propose to carry out on-farm, and how this may affect the meat’s hygiene, contact the FSA or your local authority for guidance.

Food Chain Information

New legal requirements for Food Chain Information (FCI) came into effect for pigs on 1 January 2008 and for calves under eight months on 1 January 2009.

This requires slaughterhouses to ask for information to be provided about animals consigned for slaughter. It includes information about the farm of origin, the health status of the animals and details of any veterinary medicines they may have received.

It is now a legal requirement for all slaughterhouse operators to request, receive, check and act upon FCI received for all pigs and calves sent for slaughter. From 1 January 2010 FCI is required for all cattle and sheep.

Read guidance on FCI requirements for pig slaughterhouses on the FSA website.

Read guidance on FCI requirements for cattle and sheep on the FSA website.

Further information

FSA Helpline

020 7276 8829

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Helpline

08459 33 55 77

FSA Wild Game Enquiry Line

020 7276 8386

National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Helpline

024 7685 8500

Download the MIG from the FSA website (PDF, 2.98MB)

Download summary guidance for butchers from the FSA website (PDF, 45KB)

Download meat labelling and composition guidance from the FSA website (PDF, 221KB)

Find wild game guidance on the FSA website

Download a wild game photo annexe from the FSA website (PDF, 388KB)

Download clean beef cattle for slaughter guidance for producers from the FSA website (PDF, 1.56MB)

Download red meat safety and clean livestock guidance from the FSA website (PDF, 1.10MB)

Download clean sheep for slaughter guidance for producers from the FSA website (PDF, 1.09MB)

Download HACCP plan completion guidance from the FSA website (PDF, 550KB)

Download a guide to home slaughter regulation in Scotland from the FSA website (PDF, 135KB)

Download a guide to home slaughter regulation in Northern Ireland from the FSA website (PDF, 122KB)

Download a guide to home slaughter regulation in Wales from the FSA website (PDF, 133KB)

FCI guidance for pig slaughterhouses on the FSA website

Published 5 October 2012