Get the best value from your abattoir

A misunderstanding about how prices are determined can leave a farmer seething at the abattoir. Here are some guidelines from Estelle van Reenen of Sparta Beef in Welkom, where 700 to 1 100 animals are slaughtered daily.

Get the best value from your abattoir
The method employed to cut and trim the meat significantly affects what a farmer will end up being paid.
Photo: Courtesy of Meldt van der Spuy
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Want to get the best deal at your abattoir? Here are some factors to bear in mind:

Price per kilo vs money in the pocket
Farmers tend to look only at price per kilogram when they sell their carcasses, but other issues can influence the amount of money that ends up in their pocket. Understanding the slaughter techniques and practices of the abattoir is essential. So is finding out how the abattoir slaughters and weighs and what it removes before determining a pay weight.

Kilos removed before pay-weight
A number of items may be removed from the carcass before pay-weight is reached. These include squaring the neck cut; trimming, which can add up to 1kg; kidney and kidney fat, which can weigh up to 6,9kg; skirts of 1,2kg and the inner leg fat, which can weigh 1kg.

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The flaying technique employed can make up to 2kg difference, depending on the fat and meat left on the hide. All this can add up to a loss of 12,1kg.

Animals can also lose up to 1% body weight per 100km travelled, which in turn makes a difference to the pay weight. Weighing at the farm gate is recommended as animals that have travelled may have dung on them that adds to live weight.

Due to the current state of the market, abattoirs are receiving up to R250 less per hide. When the hide is a priority, technicians may leave more fat and meat on it to ensure that it is not nicked accidentally.

This will result in a lower pay weight. But if the abattoir receives, for example, R12/kg for the hide and R33/kg for the carcass, then it makes sense to leave more fat and meat on the carcass.

There is no wrong or right in the way that an abattoir trims, but you must know which process is being used to avoid unpleasant shocks.

Branding position will also determine the quality of the hide, as the hide is only as valuable as the area in square metres that can be cut from it. It is therefore advisable to brand where it won’t affect the inside of the hide.

Depending on type, bruising can mean up to 2% deduction of pay weight. Take the initiative and inspect the loading and off-loading facilities, as well as the trucks transporting animals, to ensure there is no potential for bruising during these processes.

Other issues
Get to know the price difference between grades – most abattoirs will give the A2 price if asked over the phone. A difference of 50c to R3 is often subtracted between grades A, AB and B.

Some facilities cannot handle carcasses that are too big; find out if they impose a penalty for higher weight categories. Higher weights are becoming more popular in South Africa, but the market still makes it difficult to sell large forequarters.

The more facilities that debone, the easier it will become to handle bigger carcasses.

Farmers also have to ask about the percentage deduction between hot and cold carcass mass and the deductions for measles in carcasses and yellow fat. For Sparta Beef, the ideal animal is between 220kg and 280kg.

It prefers self-feeders who take animals directly to the abattoir and do not castrate animals, as the natural hormones mean better performance.

And dehorned animals are always better as they can cause less damage to each other and hides.

Remember the following:

  • Enquire if the abattoir has an independent meat classification system, as this will be to your benefit;
  • Make prior arrangement if you want to slaughter in a busy season;
  • Some abattoirs also reserve the right not to offload sick animals;
  • Animals with brucellosis have to have a Red Cross certificate;
  • For both food safety and regulatory purposes it is very important that withdrawal periods are adhered to. Retailers perform residue testing.

Phone Estelle van Reenen at Sparta Group at 051 991 9200 or email her at [email protected].