Meat Inspection


(1) To inform students of the history associated with the laws governing the slaughter, processing and distribution of meat.

(2) To contrast the differences between meat inspection and meat grading.

(3) To provide some insight into the functions and areas of responsibility of meat inspection.

Reading material: Principles of Meat Science (4th ed.), Chapter 14, pages 261 to 288.

There is no relationship between grading and inspection! Meat grading is a voluntary service (plants pay a fee for this service) while meat inspection is a mandatory service (plants do not pay except for overtime needs).

Roasts labeled "USDA Inspected" versus "USDA Choice"

Roasts labeled “USDA Inspected” versus “USDA Choice”

Reasons for meat inspection

  1. Failure of Europeans to recognize our meat inspection laws of the late 1800’s.
  2. President Theodore Roosevelt’s investigation of Chicago meat packers (1904-1906).
    1. Roosevelt’s testimony to Senate Investigating Committee regarding “The Embalmed Beef Scandal” in the Spanish-American War.
    2. “Conditions in Chicago Stockyards” message from the President to the House of Representatives (summarizing the Reynolds and Neill Report) on June 4, 1906.
  3. Upton Sinclair’s book “The Jungle” published in 1906.

Led to the passage of the Meat Inspection Act of 1906 (June 30, 1906).

Meat Inspectors identify meat as: Healthy (no disease), Sound (clean, sanitary), Wholesome (not adulterated), Properly Labeled (it is what it says it is).

Functions of meat inspection

  • Detection and destruction of diseased meat and/or contaminated meat.
  • Assurance of clean and sanitary handling and preparation
  • Minimization of microbiological contamination of meat.
  • Prevention of adulteration (the addition of harmful substances or products considered improper in certain specified quantities) and the presence of chemical or drug residues.
  • Prevention of false labeling.
  • Application of inspection insignia.

Jurisdiction for meat inspection

Federal government (if meat is to be sold in interstate or foreign commerce) or State government (if meat is to be sold only in intrastate commerce).

Wholesome Meat Act (1967) — Federal meat inspection

Also called “Equal To” law. Required that states have inspection programs “equal to” that of the federal government. Administered by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), Washington, DC.
At this point, the original Meat Inspection Act was renamed and is now called the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA).

Texas Meat and Poultry Inspection Act (1969) — Texas meat inspection

Administered by Texas Department of State Health Services, Texas State Meat and Poultry Inspection Program, Meat Safety Assurance Unit, Austin.

Talmadge-Aiken Agreement

TA plants are federally inspected but staffed by state employees.

Exemptions from Federal or State meat inspection

Curtis Amendment

Custom slaughterers-cutters-processors of: farm animals for farmers and game animals for hunters.

Farmers Exemption

When meat is to be used by the farmer for his own use, for his family and for his nonpaying guests.

Areas of responsibility for meat inspection

(1) Facilities construction and operational sanitation

Plants must be constructed so that they are:

  1. Clean (and can be cleaned).
  2. Do not contribute to hazards in meat.
  • Operational sanitation — specifications for water supply, drainage, waste disposal, lighting, ventilation, refrigeration, insect and rodent control; manpower: continuous inspection patrol, reinspection privilege, surveillance of workers.

(2) Antemortem inspection

Inspection of animals before slaughter, inspected in pens on the premises, on the day of slaughter, in motion and at rest.

If acceptable, passed for slaughter

If not,

  • U.S. Suspect — seriously crippled, reactors to T.B. test, immature animals, minor epithelioma of the eye or orbital region.
  • U.S. Condemned — “downers”, deads, moribund (about to die), comatose, temperature above 105 F (106 F if swine), suspect dies in pen, animals with obvious symptoms of a disease.
  • FSIS 5-04 Notice – Non-ambulatory disabled cattle (released in 2004) Veterinary Medical Officer to condemn:
    • All non-ambulatory disabled cattle; and
    • All cattle showing central nervous system symptoms regardless of whether the cattle are ambulatory.
  • If not already dead, condemned livestock shall be killed by the establishment. Such animals cannot enter establishments to be slaughtered or dressed.

Animal Disposition Reporting System (ADRS): Cattle Condemned Antemortem in USDA Inspected Establishments, FY 2002

Deads (1,312)Deads (992)Deads (17,333)
Abscess Pyemia (113)Moribund (84)Moribund (6,207)
Moribund (111)Central Nervous System Disorder (38)Pyrexia (737)
Source: USDA

Animal Disposition Reporting System (ADRS): Swine Condemned Antemortem in USDA Inspected Establishments, FY 2002

Barrows and GiltsSows
Deads (209,778)Deads (12,260)
Moribund (1,168)Moribund (256)
Central Nervous System Disorder (688)Central Nervous System Disorder (107)
Source: USDA

Animal Disposition Reporting System (ADRS): Sheep Condemned Antemortem in USDA Inspected Establishments, FY 2002

Lambs and YearlingsMature Sheep
Deads (873)Deads (489)
Moribund (26)Moribund (8)
Pyrexia (15)Abscess Pyemia (2)
Source: USDA

(3) Postmortem inspection

Inspection after slaughter of head, viscera and carcass. Inspection proceeds simultaneously with slaughter and dressing.

Temporary — U.S. Retained

Causes for condemnation:

  • Whole carcass: tuberculosis (generalized lesions), hog cholera, pneumonia, abscesses, caseous lymphadenitis, epithelioma (involvement of parotid lymph if ocular);
  • Parts of carcass: abscesses, arthritis, bruises, contamination on the kill floor.

Procedures for beef — examine head: SPAM lymph nodes, masseters, tongue; viscera: lungs, liver, heart, paunch, intestines, spleen; carcass: linings of thoracic, abdominal and pelvic cavities, outside surfaces, palpate kidneys, AQL.

AQL — Acceptable Quality Level, statistical sampling plan to determine the cleanliness of all carcasses processed.


  • U.S. Inspected and Passed
  • U.S. Inspected and Condemned
  • Passed for Cooking
  • Passed for Refrigeration

Specified Risk Materials (SRM) for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)

  • For cattle 30 months and older: Brain, skull, eyes, trigeminal ganglia, spinal cord, vertebral column (excluding vertebrae of the tail, the transverse processes of the thoracic and lumbar vertebrae, and the wings of the sacrum), and the dorsal root ganglia (DRG).
  • For all cattle: Tonsils and distal ileum of the small intestine.

Animal Disposition Reporting System (ADRS): Cattle Condemned Postmortem in USDA Inspected Establishments: FY 2002

Pneumonia (1,942)Abscess Pyemia (1,220)Malignant Lymphoma (25,037)
Abscess Pyemia (1,578)Pneumonia (1,164)Septicemia (15,319)
Septicemia (1,271)Septicemia (959)Epithelioma (11,530)
Source: USDA

Animal Disposition Reporting System (ADRS): Swine Condemned Postmortem in USDA Inspected Establishments, FY 2002

Barrows and GiltsSows
Abscess Pyemia (15,622)Abscess Pyemia (3,472)
Septicemia (13,911)Septicemia (2,310)
General Miscellaneous (10,608)Peritonitis (2,113)
Source: USDA

Animal Disposition Reporting System (ADRS): Sheep Condemned Postmortem in USDA Inspected Establishments, FY 2002

Lamb and YearlingsMature Sheep
Pneumonia (321)Caseous Lymphadenitis (411)
Icterus (287)Emaciation (379)
Arthritis (197)Abscess Pyemia (278)
Source: USDA

(4) Product inspection

(a) Reinspection privilege

To assure that a previously acceptable cut, carcass or product has not become sour, rancid, tainted, spoiled or adulterated.

(b) Inspection of imported meat products

All meats are thoroughly inspected in the country of origin and representative samples (determined statistically) are tested at the port of entry for cleanliness, labeling, water content, wholesomeness, net weight, and fat percentage.

Reasons for product rejection

  • Contamination
  • Processing defects
  • Transportation damage
  • Pathological defects
The top eight countries for meat and poultry imports, 2014

The top eight countries for meat and poultry imports, 2014

(c) Processed products inspection

Supervision of manufacturing procedures. Inspectors must be fully informed of recipes, manufacturing processes to prevent adulteration, false labeling and to assure sanitary handling.

(d) Inspection of boneless manufacturing beef

Statistically sample boneless manufacturing beef boxes.

(5) Laboratory determinations and assays

Regional USDA laboratories and Certified (privately owned) laboratories.

To determine specific levels of:

  • Fat, e.g., no more than 30% in frankfurters
  • Water, e.g., no more than 10% added water in bologna
  • Curing agents, e.g., no more than 120 ppm nitrite in cured bacon
  • Phosphates, e.g., no more than 0.5% in bacon
  • Vegetable protein extenders, e.g., no more than 3.5%, in frankfurters, of textured vegetable protein
  • Meat from other species, e.g., no meat from other species in a product (detected by antigen-antibody tests)
  • Chemical residues, e.g., specific tests to detect: hormones, insecticides, pesticides

(6) Control and restriction of condemned products

Once inspectors condemn an animal, a carcass, a cut or a product, it must be identified as U.S. Condemned and held under lock and key or in suitably marked containers and disposed of by:

  • Rendering — for inedible fats, greases or oils
  • Tanked — made into animal feed or fertilizer
  • Incinerated — burned
  • Chemically denatured — kerosene, FD & C #3 green dye, diesel, carbolic acid
  • Frozen — held at -10° F for five days and sold as animal feed

(7) Marking, labeling and application of inspection insignia

Meat labels for prepared meat items

  • Name of product
  • Ingredients statement
  • Quantity of contents
  • Inspection legend
  • Firm’s name and address

Special markings (qualifying phrases)

  • “Keep Frozen”
  • “Cereal Added”
  • “Artificially Colored”
  • “Artificial Smoke Flavor”

Pathogen Reduction and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Systems

On July 25th, 1996, USDA announced the Pathogen Reduction and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Systems final rule. This rule calls for:

  • Mandatory HACCP systems
  • Microbiological testing (generic E. coli and Salmonella)
  • Sanitation standard operating procedures (SSOPs)

HACCP was developed by food microbiologists; however, it is not limited to controlling microbiology safety. It can be used to control the full range of physical, chemical and biological factors that affect the safety of a food product. HACCP is a preventative system in which safety is designed into the food formulation and the production process.

HACCP includes the following seven principles (National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods. 1998. Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point Principles and Application Guidelines. Journal of Food Protection, 61:1246-1259).

Principle 1. Conduct a hazard analysis.

The hazards — physical, chemical and biological — associated with the production, distribution, sale and consumption of a product are determined, and the relative risks and consequences of each hazard are assessed.

Principle 2. Determine the critical control points (CCPs).

A point, step or procedure where control can be applied to prevent, eliminate or reduce to acceptable level a food safety hazard.

Principle 3. Establish critical limits.

A maximum and/or minimum value to which a biological, chemical or physical parameter must be controlled at a CCP to prevent, eliminate, or reduce to acceptable level teh occurrence of a food safety hazard.

Principle 4. Establish monitoring procedures.

A planned sequence of observations or measurements to assess where a CCP is under control and to produce an accurate record for future use in verification.

Principle 5. Establish corrective actions.

Contingency plans that detail the protocols that must by followed when a CCP is found out of control should include step to bring the CCP under control and the recommended disposition of any product manufactured while the CCP was out of control.

Principle 6. Establish verification procedures.

Those activities, other than monitoring, that determine the validity of the HACCP plan adn that the system is operating according to the plan.

Principle 7. Establish Record-keeping and documentation procedures.

Records include the hazard analysis, including the rationale for determining hazards and control measures, the HACCP plan, and monitoring and corrective action activities.

Review of Material — What the student should know:

(1) A better understanding of the regulatory agencies that have jurisdiction over meat inspection.

(2) A clearer distinction between meat inspection and meat grading.

(3) Why meat inspection happened.

(4) The difference between antemortem and postmortem inspection and the reasons for retainment, condemnation and acceptance of different conditions that involve health and esthetics.

(5) Regulatory factors that relate to approval of labels, ingredients, meat from foreign sources, etc.

(6) Construction requirements for new and existing meat plants.

(7) The definition and use of HACCP.

Links to related sites on the Internet

International HACCP Alliance

USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Food


One Response to Meat Inspection

  1. Pingback: Meat Inspection and Recalls: How It Works | Chico Locker & Sausage Co. Inc.Chico Locker & Sausage Co. Inc.

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