Treatment of Meat Wastes

Charles J.Banks and Zhengjian Wang

University of Southampton, Southampton, England


The meat industry is one of the largest producers of organic waste in the food processing sector and forms the interface between livestock production and a hygienically safe product for use in both human and animal food preparation. This chapter looks at this interface, drawing its boundaries at the point of delivery of livestock to the slaughterhouse and the point at which packaged meat is shipped to its point of use. The chapter deals with "meat" in accordance with the understanding of the term by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) [1] as all animal products from cattle, calves, hogs, sheep and lambs, and from any meat that is not listed under the definition of poultry. USEPA uses the term "meat" as synonymous with the term "red meat." The definition also includes consumer products (e.g., cooked, seasoned, or smoked products, such as luncheon meat or hams). These specialty products, however, are outside the scope of the current text. The size of the meat industry worldwide, as defined above, can thus be judged by meat production (Table 1), which globally is around 140 million tons (143 million tonnes) for major species, with about one-third of production shared between the United States and the European Union. The single largest meat producer is China, which accounts for 36% of world production.

The first stages in meat processing occur in the slaughterhouse (abattoir) where a number of common operations take place, irrespective of the species. These include holding of animals for slaughter, stunning, killing, bleeding, hide or hair removal, evisceration, offal removal, carcass washing, trimming, and carcass dressing. Further secondary operations may also occur on the same premises and include cutting, deboning, grinding, and processing into consumer products.

There is no minimum or maximum size for a slaughterhouse, although the tendency in Europe is towards larger scale operations because EU regulations on the design and operation of abattoirs [2] have forced many smaller operators to cease work. In the United States there are approximately 1400 slaughterhouses employing 142,000 people, yet 3% of these provide 43% of the industry employment and 46% of the value of shipments [1], In Europe slaughterhouses tend to process a mixed kill of animals; whereas in the United States larger operations specialize in processing one type of animal and, if a single facility does slaughter different types of meat animals, separate lines or even separate buildings are used [3].

Table 1 Meat Production Figures (x1000) and Percentage of Global Production by the United States and European Union (EU)

Global tons/year (tonnes/year)

USA tons/year (tonnes/year)


EU tons/year (tonnes/year)


























Figures derived from a wide range of statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service. Provisional figures for 2002. bFigures for 1997.

Figures derived from a wide range of statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service. Provisional figures for 2002. bFigures for 1997.


As a direct result of its operation, a slaughterhouse generates waste comprised of the animal parts that have no perceived value to the slaughterhouse operator. It also generates wastewater as a result of washing carcasses, processing offal, and from cleaning equipment and the fabric of the building. The operations taking place within a slaughterhouse and the types of waste and products generated are summarized in Fig. 1. Policies on the use of blood, gut contents, and meat and bone meal vary between different countries. Products that may be acceptable as a saleable product or for use in agriculture as a soil addition in one country may not be acceptable in another. Additionally, wastes and wastewaters are also generated from the stockyards, any rendering process, cooling facilities for refrigeration, compressors and pumps, vehicle wash facilities, wash rooms, canteen, and possibly laundry facilities.

15.2.1 Waste Characteristics and Quantities Generated

In general the characteristics of the solid wastes generated reflect the type of animal being killed, but the composition within a particular type of operation is similar regardless of the size of the plant. The reason for this is that the nature of the waste is determined by the animal itself and the quantity is simply a multiplication of the live weight of material processed. For example, the slaughter of a commercial steer would yield the products and byproducts shown in Table 2.

As can be seen the noncommercial sale material represents a little over 50% of the live weight of the animal, with about 25% requiring rendering or special disposal. The other 25% has a negative value and, because of its high water content, is not ideally suited to the rendering process. For this reason alternative treatment and disposal options have been sought for nonedible offal, gut fill, and blood, either separately or combined together, and in some cases combined with wastewater solids. The quantity of waste from sheep is again about 50% of the live weight, while pigs have only about 25% waste associated with slaughter.

Other solid waste requiring treatment or disposal arises mainly in the animal receiving and holding area, where regulations may demand that bedding is provided. In the European Union the volume of waste generated by farm animals kept indoors has been estimated by multiplying the number of animals by a coefficient depending on types of animals, function, sex, and age. Examples of coefficients that can be used for such calculations are given in Table 3 [5]. These

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