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Abattoirs and the meat industry


Natural progression from live animal to carcass to meat:

  • Animals are transported, offloaded and kept for slaughter in a manner that does not involve unnecessary pain.
  • Clean water is provided continuously.
  • Depending on the time they have to wait for slaughtering, food, in accordance with their needs, is provided.
  • The animals are handled in a humane way at all times.
  • Inspectors perform an ante mortem examination to determine if the animals are healthy and ready for slaughtering.
  • Sick animals are isolated and dead animals are disposed of by an acceptable method which may include rendering, burning or denaturation.
  • Care is taken that only meat from healthy animals reaches the consumer.
  • All animals are inspected to determine whether they have any latent diseases.
  • A routine meat inspection is done on the carcass and offal of each animal by trained meat inspectors.
  • Carcasses are now classified. Meat is classified to provide the consumer information relating to the age and fat thickness on the carcass.
  • After final approval, the carcasses are chilled immediately to stop germs/micro organisms from multiplying or causing accidental contamination. Meat is now kept cold and the temperature is kept constant until the product reaches the consumer. (It is important not to break the cold chain from after slaughtering until the meat is cooked and consumed).
  • During the entire process, hands are washed regularly, instruments are sterilised (boiled) and clean protective clothes are worn daily.
  • All surfaces coming into contact with meat are cleaned and sanitized on a routine basis.
  • The health care of the workers handling the meat is a high priority to eliminate problems with regard to germs/micro organisms or contagious diseases that can be transmitted to the meat.
  • A great effort is made to make certain that meat leaving the abattoir is clean, safe, nutritious and in a wholesome condition to ensure a relatively long shelf life.

Animal welfare

National Society Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA)

Veterinarian: vet [at]


“How many abattoirs adhere to the clauses that animals must not experience unnecessary pain, have continuous access to clean water and be provided with food if kept for longer periods of time?” This is among the questions asked by meat inspectors and the NSPCA.

International business environment

  • Meat prices peaked in June 2022, and declined steadily since. Most prices are expected “to soften further through 2023, bottom out in 2024 and then increase modestly over the coming decade”.
  • Despite rising prices, meat production expanded globally by just 2% in 2022. Animal diseases, increasing input costs (particularly feed), and extreme weather conditions are given as limiting factors.
  • Because of rising domestic production and lower imports from China (which is recovering from a bout of ASF), the global meat trade is expected to grow at a lower rate than the previous 10 years.
  • Intensive industries (mainly poultry and pork) are expected to make the biggest contribution to meat production growth in the next decade.
Source: Bureau for Food & Agricultural Policy (BFAP) Baseline 2023-2032


Further reference:

  • The latest Livestock and Poultry: World Markets and Trade by the Foreign Agricultural Service arm of the US Department of Agriculture looks at the global supply and demand of chicken, beef and pork.
  • Visit the website of the International Meat Secretariat (IMS) – The IMS brings together meat and livestock organisations throughout the world.
  • Google “World Meat Congress” to find details of the next annual event.
  • An international website is
  • – website of the International Organization for Standardization. There are ISO standards which give assurance of the quality of meat and meat products from recognised abattoirs.
  • – website of the American Meat Science Association
  • Included in the annual Bureau for Food & Agricultural Policy (BFAP) Baseline is a comparative look at the different meat sorts and the global picture of how well they are doing. Find the document at

South Africa: imports and exports

The following are the requirements for registering to supply the meat export market:

  1. Animals need to be individually and permanently identified at least 3 months before slaughter.
  2. Animals must be of South African origin.
  3. Farmers must supply a detailed plan of their farm, buildings and fences.
  4. Don’t use hormones, steroids, growth stimulants, animal by-products or feed stimulants.
  5. Only natural food may supplement veld.
  6. Veld must be clearly marked, identified, rotated, and rested for one season before being used.
  7. Feed must be stored in a dry area away from chemicals and fertilisers and be kept safe from vermin, mould and dust.
  8. Feed and water troughs must be clean and well maintained.
  9. Stock Registers must contain the following information: a) Dates of arrival at the farm. b) Origin. c) Identification numbers. d) Any treatment and vaccination dates. e) Number of deaths (with reasons). f) The dates of dispatch to the Abattoir.
  10. Disease Control Measures: a) Notify State Vet in the event of the outbreak of a disease. b) Treated animals must be kept in a separate camp. c) Intra-muscular injections must only be given in the neck. d) Observe the stipulated withdrawal periods for any therapeutic remedy used. e) Send the head of any animal that dies to the nearest Vet. To check for Mad Cow Disease.
  11. Dipping areas must be sealed when not in use.
  12. Record all chemicals used.
  13. All chemicals must be environmentally friendly.
  14. Allow the export Abattoir to conduct soil, water and feed analysis for heavy metals prior to registration.
  15. Transport must be well coordinated and the trucks should never be overloaded.
  16. Cattle branding must be completed 3 weeks before slaughter.
  17. De-horn cattle before weaning.
  18. Animals must be subjected to minimum stress during the 3 week period before slaughter.

Local business environment

Just when Covid-19 had waned, better meat prices could not cover ever-increasing feed costs caused by weather conditions and the war in Ukraine. In addition load shedding, animal disease outbreaks and poor municipal service delivery taxed the sector to the extreme.

South African meat products are “well integrated” in global markets, a result of imports (poultry and pork) and exports (beef). Efforts aimed at import replacements and investing in the country’s competitiveness have been compromised by the previously mentioned factors like load shedding and poor municipal delivery.

Weak economic growth and the country’s monetary tightening to curb inflation has placed consumer incomes under pressure. Consequently, a decline in meat consumption per capita is anticipated for the next 2-3 years. In addition, customers who can’t afford backup power generation at home are less likely to buy meat in bulk, even though fresh meat is more expensive. There is projected growth over the outlook period (2023-2032) but this will mainly fall in the second half of this period “on the back of small improvements in income growth and lower real prices”.

Source: Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) 2023-2032 Baseline

South Africa has approximately 431 abattoirs slaughtering cattle, pigs and sheep on an annual basis [Find the DALRRD list of abattoirs (2021, November) on its website,]. Approximately 40% of all slaughterings are performed by abattoirs that may slaughter an unlimited number of animals (Class A) and approximately 60% of cattle are slaughtered by highly regulated abattoirs (Class A & B). Most of these abattoirs have linkages with feedlots. South Africa’s meat imports exceed her exports, making the country a net importer. Local markets include butcheries, supermarkets, hotels, institutions, colleges, schools and restaurants.

Source: A Profile of the South African Beef Market Value Chain

Further reference:

  • Slaughter statistics can be found at, website of the Agricultural Levy Services.
  • Keep your eye on websites like and
  • The latest Abstract of Agricultural Statistics includes categories like “Cattle numbers, numbers slaughtered and average prices of beef”, “Production and consumption of veal”, “Sheep, lambs and goats – numbers slaughtered at abattoirs, average prices of mutton, production and consumption”. Find it on
  • The annual Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) Baseline includes an overview of meat under “Outlook for animal products”. Find the document at
  • Market outlooks can also be found in the agricultural weeklies – Landbouweekblad and Farmer’s Weekly – or visit their websites: and

For the newcomer

  • Find the pamphlet “Information on how to build a new abattoir” at


One strategic objective of National Emergent Red Meat Producers Organisation (NERPO) is to pursue business opportunities in the livestock and meat production chain for the advantage and benefit of the emerging producers. Visit

Photo used courtesy of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD)

National strategy and government contacts

The Agriculture and Agro-processing Master Plan (AAMP) is expected to follow on from the Agricultural Policy Action Plan (APAP) and the National Development Plan (NDP), in encouraging the country to tap into the huge potential in the meat value chain, particularly the informal livestock market. Strategically placed abattoirs and training in production standards, meat quality and value added products could assist smallholder farmers and rural development.

The pre-condition of an effective animal health system that receives the overall buy-in and support from all social partners, with government accepting its responsibility in driving the health system, will create opportunities for inclusive growth and the creation of jobs in the meat value chain (BFAP, 2021).

Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) Find the Abattoir lists, Veterinary Public Health Manuals and other information at Application forms, Guidelines and contacts at DALRRD are all available.

Legislation governing the prevention of cruelty to animals specifically pertaining to transport, stunning and sticking of animals at abattoirs include:

  • The Animal Protection Act
  • Meat Safety Act (Act 40 of 2000)


Regulation 73 under the Meat Safety Act, 2000 (Act no. 40 of 2000) prescribes the following regarding stunning pistols: (i) The abattoir owner must ensure that the captive bolt pistol is silenced, in a good state of repair and that it is used according to the methods approved by the national executive officer; and (ii) The correct grade of cartridge for the type of animal must be used to ensure maximum bolt speed and penetration of the skull.

The meat inspectors are responsible for the welfare of animals at abattoirs. When stunning devices and operators are not proficient or adequate, animals suffer whilst being slaughtered. For a simple outline of these Acts refer to

Other relevant legislation:

  • Agricultural Product Standards Act (Act 119 of 1990)
  • Animal Diseases Act (Act 35 of 1984)
  • Animal Identification Act (Act 6 of 2002)
  • Fertilisers, Farm Feeds, Agricultural Remedies and Stock Remedies Act (Act 36 of 1984)
  • Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, 1972 (Act 54 of 1972)
  • The Health Act
  • The Water Act
  • Local Authority Health Regulations
  • The Livestock Theft Act
  • Veterinary and Para-Veterinary Professions Act (Act 19 of 1982)


Directorate: Food Safety & Quality Assurance This directorate is responsible for setting national standards, including those for abattoirs.

Department of Health The food control section within the department is responsible for ensuring the safety of food in South Africa.

National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) Relevant Statutory Measures, registration forms, abattoir levy forms etc can be obtained from the Red Meat Levy Admin company (details under “Associations involved” heading).

Guidelines for the processed meat industry as laid out in SANS 885 specify the handling, preparation, processing, packaging, refrigeration, freezing, chilling and storage of processed meat products.

South African Bureau of Standards (SABS)

Guidelines for the processed meat industry as laid out in SANS 885 specify the handling, preparation, processing, packaging, refrigeration, freezing, chilling and storage of processed meat products.

Further SABS Standards applicable to this industry: (i) (SABS 0331) Translocation of certain species of wild herbivore (ii) (SANS 10391:2004) The welfare of wild animals transported by sea (iii) (SANS 1884-1:2004) Holding Pens for temporary housing of animals – Part 1 (iv) (SANS 1884-2:2007) Holding Pens for temporary housing of animals – Part 2 (v) (SANS 1884-3:2008) Holding Pens for temporary housing of animals – Part 3 (vi) Food Safety Certification programmes as well as Product Certification: Eurepgap, BRC, HACCP, ISO 22000 (vii) Microbiological examination of foods

Further reference:

Associations involved

Find details of the Red Meat Abattoir Association (RMAA), the Red Meat Industry Services (RMIS) and other associations and industry bodies under the Role players heading further down this page.

Training and research

Learnerships and apprenticeships are a combination of on-the-job learning along with some theoretical training. The major part of the training can be offered on the farm. Find information on learnerships in the “Agricultural education & training” chapter, or at (under “Skills delivery” option). Find the links, also on the AgriSETA website, to the following qualifications: (i) National Certificate: Abattoir Slaughtering Processes (ii) National Certificate: Abattoir Supervision (iii) National Certificate: General Abattoir Processes (iv) Further Education and Training Certificate: Meat Classification (v) Further Education and Training Certificate: Meat Examination.

Training provided by the Red Meat Abattoir Association (RMAA) and its Abattoir Skills Training company includes: 1. Animal handling 2. Auditors Course 3. Basic introduction to the Abattoir Industry 4. Beef slaughter 5. Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) 6. HACCP Awareness 7. HMS & HACCP 8. Hygiene Awareness 9. Introductory Abattoir Hygiene Course 10. Meat Inspection (Refresher Course) 11. Pork Slaughter 12. Small Stock Slaughter. Learnerships include FETC Meat Examination and NC General Abattoir Processes. Bursaries for the training of health officers are also available. The RMAA also assists members apply for Discretionary Grant funding from AgriSETA. For more information visit the RMAA website,

Agricultural Colleges like Grootfontein Agricultural Development Institute do abattoir training. Find the list of these colleges in the “Agricultural education and training” page.

Find details of other training providers and researchers under the Role players heading further down this page.

Role players

Note: Click to expand the headings below. To get a free listing on our website like the ones below, visit here for more information or place your order hereDisclaimer: The role player listings are not vetted by this website.

Meat World – Abattoirs plus (active throughout the value chain)
Karan Beef – Abattoirs plus (active throughout the value chain)
Cavalier Group – Abattoirs plus (active throughout the value chain)
Ambleside Meats – Abattoirs plus (active throughout the value chain)
Red Meat Industry Services (RMIS) – The Red Meat Industry Services (RMIS) came into existence to help the primary red meat cluster achieve the goals of its vision for 2030. Read more on the website.
Red Meat Abattoir Association (RMAA) – The Red Meat Abattoir Association (RMAA) is a representative forum for abattoir owners in South Africa. Training is provided to abattoir personnel as part of the challenge to improve and maintain hygiene and safety standards of meat. The RMAA website gives information on industry news, services offered by the RMAA, legislation relevant to the industry, price and health information and industry products.
Van Vliet de Wet & Partners Tel: 011 726 8195 Abattoir services and inputs: planning, design and construction of plant and equipment for abattoirs and for the meat industry.
ARC-Animal Production – Food Science and Technology: research is done in meat production, carcass evaluation, meat technology, quality, microbiology, biochemistry, chemistry – all relevant areas.
Red Meat Abattoir Association (RMAA) – The Red Meat Abattoir Association (RMAA) is a representative forum for abattoir owners in South Africa. Training is provided to abattoir personnel as part of the challenge to improve and maintain hygiene and safety standards of meat. The RMAA website gives information on industry news, services offered by the RMAA, legislation relevant to the industry, price and health information and industry products.

Further reference:

Websites and publications

Visit the websites of the associations mentioned earlier on this page e.g. and

  • Consult the National Agricultural Marketing Council’s Trade Probe reports at Frequently you will find aspects of the meat sector covered.
  • Refer to the latest annual A Profile of the South African Beef Market Value Chain and other livestock value chain publications on the DALRRD website at
  • Also on the DALRRD website are the following: “Import requirements for fresh meat”, “Procedures for the export of fresh meat”, “Buy with confidence … Buy approved meat”, “Our meat is safe”, “Safe meat” and “Slaughterings and consumer confidence”.
  • is “Your News and Information portal to the Abattoir, Butchery, Meat Processing and Deli Industries”
  • The International Finance Corporation (IFC)/Agbiz report (December 2019) on water efficiency in the agri-processing sector includes a look at animal slaughtering. Find it at
  • Publications like the following are available at the RMAA (see (i) Manual for the Abattoir Industry – a manual which describes all aspects of the abattoir industry and is an ideal source of reference for any person involved in the abattoir industry; (ii) Meat Inspectors Manual: Red Meat – this manual contains the minimum norm of required knowledge for all persons involved with hygiene control and meat inspection at abattoirs. It also serves as a valuable reference with regard to diseases and condemnations; (iii) FOA [United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation] Manual on Meat Inspection for Developing Countries is strongly recommended for training and reference purposes. Industry relevant articles, news and events will be available and updated on a regular basis in the “articles” section of the RMAA website.
  • Call 012 842 4017 or email iaeinfo [at] for the following publications, available from ARC-Agricultural Engineering: (i) Mishanteringshandleiding vir intensiewe diereproduksie-eenhede in SA (ii) Processing of Meat Products (Russians, tongue, hamburger patties, polony, frankfurters, bacon, ham, sausages).
  • Siebert, T. 2018. Red meat processing. Farmlink. Available at
  • A number of booklets are available from SAMIC: (i) Info for new meat traders (2nd one in Afrikaans) (ii) Duties and Functions of Abattoir managers regarding the welfare of animals. (iii) Duties and Functions of Abattoir managers regarding the welfare of pigs. (iv) A guideline for the use of prodders and stunning devices in abattoirs. The above booklets are also available from the NSPCA. Tel: 011 907 3590/1/2
  • Download the latest edition of Rooivleis/Red Meat at
  • Current legislation allows for cultural, traditional or religious slaughter. The role of the SPCA is to ensure the humane treatment of the animals and that the process is checked from the loading of the animals through to their arrival at the venue and the actual slaughter. Relevant websites are and For a list of Halaal abattoirs visit and
  • Lymbery, P & Oakeshott, I. 2014. Farmaggedon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat. London: Bloomsbury. Find the Dagbreek: Landbousake interview with Lymberry here along with RPO rejoinders.
  • for recipes, articles and information on the Cleaver Awards for butcheries.
  • Mzansi Meat Growing meat from cells instead of taking it from animals
  • Read about the Meat Free Monday campaign at See what you think of the rebuttal at

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