The safety and cleanliness of the meat we consume is the primary responsibility of every individual who comes in contact with it. From the farm to the dining table, every person working on preparing and selling the meat products must keep in mind wholesale meat safety guidelines.
Regardless of how effective one aspect of the food industry is in making sure food products are safe, their efforts may get compromised by one segment in the chain. Thus, state, county, and national agencies are handling wholesale meat production, procurement, distribution, preparation, and retail. This assures the consumers of the safety of meat products.
Meat Industry: Regulated for Good Reasons
The wholesale meat industry is one of the most well-regulated in all the food trades in the country– as it should. About nine national agencies are overseeing the meat industry and ensuring that the public is safe to consume meat products.
The Food Safety and Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (FSIS-USDA) is the leading agency that oversees the process. They administer and facilitate a highly comprehensive system for quality inspection. This system includes regulations that wholesale meat products are meant for human consumption.
Wholesale Meat: Inspection vs. Grading
Meat grading and meat inspection are two processes, not very well known to the public. Let’s take a look at the definitions of them.
This is a service voluntarily conducted by the Agricultural Marketing Service branch of the USDA. They section meat carcasses and yield meat products from those items.
Consequently, those products are made into standardized groups based on different factors. These factors influence the taste and appeal of the cooked meat products and the yield from the carcasses.
Meat inspection, on the other hand, is a mandatory guideline. It’s a system administered by the FSIS-USDA. They are responsible for overseeing the production of wholesale meat products for the public.
Meat grading is an initiative by the meat processing companies. Meat inspection is a taxpayer initiative that is mandatory for all wholesale meat processing companies.
Meat Inspection Procedures from the FSIS
The meat inspectors practically represent the best interests of the consumers. They oversee the sanitation of the wholesale meat processing facilities. Here are some of their responsibilities.
Operational Sanitation and Facilities Inspection
Before beginning the day’s operations at the processing facility, an FSIS inspector will go through the entire premises and establishment. The inspector will scrutinize the sanitary orders. He or she will then determine if the processing facility meets the regulations relating to building and equipment.
Prior to or on the day of slaughter, all livestock must undergo federal inspection.
A veterinarian or a lay inspector under veterinary supervision administers the inspection procedures. The examination takes place on the premises of the processing facility.
The animals are carefully observed while at rest and in motion. This allows the inspectors to check the animals’ overall health. If the animals are suspected of having a disease, or if they are showing any symptoms of a disease, the animals are up for postmortem inspection.
If they show visible signs of a disease, they will be classified as “U.S. Condemned” and will not be allowed down the production line for human consumption.
This is a complex phase in the meat inspection procedure. A veterinary inspector also conducts this. During the postmortem inspection, the careful scrutiny of the animals’ entire carcasses (lymph nodes, blood, organs, etc.) is examined.
This procedure includes the cutting, segmenting, and additional processing steps in the facility. The meat inspector ensures that all the processing procedures (cutting, grinding, curing, smoking, etc.) are carefully handled without using any harmful preservatives or substances.
USDA Inspection Legend Application
All meat processing plants across the country inspected by the FSIS-USDA will have a corresponding establishment number. This number is placed on the processing plant’s inspection legend. The inspection legend will also appear on the meat products with the use of edible ink.
These additional inspection steps entail the use of laboratory procedures for chemical and biological hazards detection.
Meat inspectors ensure that all the meat products leaving the processing plant are labeled accurately – from ingredient lists to nutritional information, etc.