Meat industry overview
The British meat industry is responsible for supplying safe, wholesome and quality meat and meat products to people across the UK and further afield.
It involves businesses throughout the ‘food chain’ from farms, abattoirs and cutting/processing operations through to food manufacturers, distributors and the supermarkets that sell their products.
The majority of products produced by the meat industry are from pigs, cattle and sheep. They are usually sold either as full carcases, animal sections or smaller cuts like steaks and chops. Some of the meat produced also goes on for further processing into products like sausages, bacon and other cured meats, pies and other manufactured foods.
Transport and slaughter
The job of getting fresh meat onto customers’ tables begins with the transport and slaughter of animals. Our members abattoirs follow strict guidelines to ensure humane treatment and a high level of hygiene and quality control. The carcasses are skinned, cleaned and preserved either by chilling or freezing them or adding salt.
The by-products of this process are also used such as skins, wool and lard. Very little goes to waste as products that are less popular in the UK market, for example offal, can be exported to overseas markets where they are regularly eaten and command a higher price.
The next stage of the process (often done within the same plant as the slaughter) involves cutting the carcases into smaller parts or ‘cuts’ ready to send on to manufacturers to use in their food products or to supermarkets to sell as the familiar range of fresh meat products on their shelves.
Processing and Manufacturing
Companies involved in this part of the industry take fresh meat from the abattoirs and processing plants and use it to make products like pies, sausages, bacon, ham and frozen meals. They process the raw meat by curing, mincing, adding flavourings and various other techniques to produce their products.
Wholesalers and food service companies
Fresh meat is also purchased from abattoirs and processors by both wholesalers and large food service companies like hotels, restaurants, hospitals and fast-food chains.
In recent years, the role of wholesalers has been shrinking as more of the larger companies like McDonalds, Burger King and the supermarkets have chosen to source their meat directly from dedicated UK abattoirs to ensure the quality and provenance of what they buy. This has been a response to a growing demand from the public for more assurance that their food achieves higher standards.