From cattle ‘hotel’ to plate

2011-09-05 00:00

IT sizzles on the griddle and it tastes good, but how did the steak end up under pepper sauce, waiting to be eaten?

Part of the answer was given to The Witness by Triple A Beef’s general manager Ettienne Bestbier, and operations manager Cobus van Rensburg.

Up to 480 cattle are slaughtered every working day at the company’s abattoir. The cattle, bought from farmers throughout the province and as far as the Free State, come to the feedlot, or “the hotel” as Bestbier prefers to call it.

The cattle eat two to four nutritionally balanced meals a day, moving through the growth cycle at the feedlot.

Moving closer to their demise in both time and proximity, the cattle are shifted through the various pens. They are in pens closest to the abattoir when ready to be slaughtered. The growing and fattening period in the feedlot takes 120 days.

The feedlot’s proximity to the abattoir helps reduce stress on the animal, as they are not transported in trucks for long periods, Bestbier said.

They are washed and sent through an S-shaped cattle race. The rationale behind the design is so the cattle will not see what is around them for most of the short journey. This is again used to reduce stress on the animals.

The animal then steps into an enclosureand a captive bolt is shot into the animal’s head, stunning it “instantly”, said Bestbier. Its throat is then slit, killing the animal­.

The “dressing” of the animal refers to the removal of its hide, which brings to mind the obvious thought that the process really undresses the animal.

A sterilised knife is then used to make the first opening cut to the animal’s underbelly, and the rest of the skin is worked at with the air knife.

With its innards removed, it shifts down the production line to an electric splitter saw. With the carcass hanging by its ankles, the blade starts between the hind legs and works its way to the neck.

At this point independent authorities inspect the carcass, ensuring that the meat is healthy and strict ­hygiene standards of the slaughter process have been met, classifying the meat in accordance to its quality, age and confirmation, Van Rensburg said.

The carcasses are sold to retailers in various cuts, vacuum packed and ready for distribution.

The garnish and pepper sauce are out of their hands though.

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