Abattoirs in the news for all the right reasons

Students judging Beef 2 sm

Judging meat quality

I have had some great feedback on my post on Thea from the Youth Food Movement’s blog post of her reflections of her visit to an abattoir

I have never visited an abattoir and it’s not on my wish list and pretty confident it won’t ever be.

I don’t visit third world countries either. In this case it’s because I don’t want to see other people living in poverty. Whenever we needed an animal euthanized on our farm we got an external person into do it. Not an ideal mindset for a farmer perhaps but I can live with it. Kudos to people like Thea who make the effort to see it for themselves and make their own minds up based on personal experiences. Quoting Thea

Meat eating after all is a conversation which tends to polarise in the extreme.

If anything, the experience reminded me of why I believe transparency is so damn important and reinforced my belief that if we’re going to let people make their own decisions about what they eat, then we also need to let them in on the story of how their food is produced – whether it creeps them out or not – and respect their right to make informed food choices based on that accurate information.

………While I still sometimes question the ethics of eating animals when I have replacements to hand, I don’t question the humanity of those who work in it. Nor will I stop pushing for transparency around those things that give us the creeps. Source 

With regards to the abattoir process I am absolutely fascinated by the ability of the Intercollegiate Meat Judging Competition to attract people to careers in agriculture

I have just had an external evaluation of The Archibull Prize done to determine whether it had achieved its objectives of using creative arts and multimedia to engage urban and rural school students to:

  1. Consider agriculture related careers;
  2. Expand their understanding of farming; and
  3. Understand the challenges of farming

The report highlighted the power of sending young people from the farming sector into schools to inspire an appreciation of farming and careers in the sector. A lot of our Young Farming Champions too have been part of the  Intercollegiate Meat Judging Competition and are wax lyrical about it. In fact, we had one of  our YFC participate as part of the Australian team at the international finals last December.

NW team shot

Congratulations to the very successful Aussie Intercollegiate Meat judging team. Read more here

According to their website this competition has the following project objectives

Program Objectives

The objective of the Intercollegiate Meat Judging Competition is to provide an opportunity for students to learn and to build the pool of intelligent young meat industry representatives, fired with enthusiasm who will give the Australian meat industry the expertise and drive to compete in the meat quality world of the future.

This is done through:

  • Exposing students to the fundamentals of meat quality education.
  • Demonstrating to students how and why markets perceive meat quality differently and highlighting the various carcase specifications required by these markets.
  • Exposing students to different systems of meat identification and classification
  • Providing training and a non-threatening competitive environment to assist students develop confidence and communication skills.
  • Providing an opportunity for students to acquire and apply knowledge of practical aspects of meat science.
  • Raising students’ awareness of career opportunities that exist in the meat industry.
  • Exposing students to the requirements of the end-user (consumer)
  • Exposing student to new technologies within the meat industry.

If my experience is anything to go by  the ICMJ competition achieves this in spades. And  if I have got it right the program includes visits to abattoirs. What a great job it is doing of sharing the farm to fork story in a pragmatic way and inspiring a passion for careers in the beef industry and in the case of YFC Dr Steph Fowler (picture below)  it can even inspire a PhD in Meat Science


Dr Steph Fowler – meat scientist

Now here is an interesting site for those who want to learn more about Australian Abattoirs










Author: Lynne Strong

I am a 6th generation farmer who loves surrounding myself with optimistic, courageous people who believe in inclusion, diversity and equality and embrace the power of collaboration. I am the founder of Picture You in Agriculture. Our team design and deliver programs that inspire pride in Australian agriculture and support young people to thrive in business and life

3 thoughts on “Abattoirs in the news for all the right reasons”

  1. Understanding how our meat is processes is a vital art of appreciating the innovative and modern approaches undertaken in meat production, processing, packaging and distribution

  2. You know, I hesitate to comment again – I’m sure people must be tired of seeing my name here by now. But this post and the earlier one featuring Thea’s observations really get at the core of my feelings about the meat industry.

    But I’m damned if I can work out a way to put it succinctly yet clearly. I’d love to discuss this over a coffee or whatever! Anyway, here goes, for what it’s worth. I apologise for what may sound like piffle to many people of the land, but I think my ideas are grounded in science, philosophy and ethics. And I apologise for my bluntness, but I do feel very strongly about this.

    Nature works on survival of the fittest and there’s precious little mercy in the day to day rule of tooth and claw. Animals cannot afford that – their daily endeavour is driven purely by the need to survive and procreate.

    But evolution has done something quite remarkable, it’s equipped one animal with the capacity to rise above this natural law. We human beings can and do choose often not to be bound by our evolutionary heritage. And in doing so, we’ve developed a notion of nobility.

    By nobility I mean those social and behavioural qualities that we would consider worthy of aspiring to, and which make the world a better place. I suggest we have a broad sense of what these are – for example, courage, honour, equality, compassion. It is of course possible to found a society on ideals that better match a purely naturalistic outlook, such as competition, survival of the fittest, dominance and so on. Perhaps the Third Reich might exemplify that thinking. I think that in Australia today we generally would regard the former as more desirable than the latter.

    On this idea then, do we constrain our ideals of nobility only to furthering our own ends, or is there room for a more outward looking framework that addresses human needs but considers our impact, our heritage and our legacy to the future?

    The problem with the meat industry is that we have stepped beyond our nature and now operate in a very negative manner, taking far more than we need and reducing our fellow animals to the role of product. While nature is a numbers game, we can acknowledge nonetheless that every animal, human and not, is an entity in its own right. And generally speaking, mammals and birds at the least operate not too differently from us.

    As such, they do feel, they do experience, they do think about things and they can indeed suffer. This doesn’t require us to put them on a pedestal and venerate them beyond what is sensible, but surely it behoves us a noble beings – if that is what we hope to be – to consider their experience and seek not to wilfully visit harm where none is needed.

    And that’s my concern. This current post and the earlier one seem to me to mistake education for propagandising. Animals are reduced to a product and their lives trivialised by the very nature of the language chosen. Meat is made into a commodity and we are encouraged to consume ever greater numbers of animals to ensure that the industry and its work becomes a career option.

    Once we make the industry of farming animals for casual consumption into a business, our priorities become ensuring its survival and its growth. The Meat & Livestock Association listed four strategic imperatives in its 2014 annual report. These were:

    – maintain and improve market access
    – increase productivity across the supply chain
    – grow demand
    – support industry integrity and sustainability

    In other words, two of the primary strategies are about reducing costs and increasing demand. When we consider the fourth strategy talks of sustainability, we are immediately struck by the conflict between that and a commitment to generating more and more product and encouraging people to consume more.

    See what I mean about balance? Should we realistically be pushing to simply produce more product when that product is living breathing animals? Why do we need to grow demand? To make more profits of course. How do we grow demand? Encourage people to increasingly see meat as a pleasure product, as an entertainment, as a commodity.

    These two posts appear to skirt around the very real issue that conscious beings are being killed for our pleasures by encouraging us to view the process as necessary but worthy, and glossing over what it really means in favour of doublespeak about “informed food choices” and “transparency”.

    How can the public make truly informed choices when the industry actively conspires to prevent exactly that? The only narrative we see is the one that serves the industry in its drive to expand and grow markets, to grow demand, to ensure its own survival at whatever cost.

    This is not nobility and it’s not worth striving for, not when so many lives are lost for so little. Especially when we can choose to be masters of not only our own fates, but those of all the rest of the species we are so hellbent on destroying. Elephants, whales, fish, tigers, sharks, all driven toward extinction by our relentless self interests. Countless millions of food animals bred and suffered for the same (actually it’s 65 billion or so world wide, every year…).

    And this is a career option?

    Abattoirs are NOT nice and if they are in the news, then it’s for exactly the WRONG reasons.

    I welcome any feedback on my thoughts here, and I am more than happy to field arguments against my views. That said, I recognise that this is Lynne’s blog and not my personal soapbox. Other than to respond to any comments to my words above, I shan’t comment here again.

    1. Hi Graeme
      It’s is very obvious this is something that you see as your calling and I am grateful there are people like you continually asking questions. I use my blog to also ask a lot of questions. As you can see I have fellow farmers who don’t agree with some of my views
      I can assure you a lot of people are discussing this behind the scenes and in particular our Young Farming Champions are asking their peers who work in the meat processing industry a lot of questions
      I know nothing about the meat processing industry but have been enlightened considerably over the last few days by people who do work in this space
      All I can say to you is that there appears to be a lot of people in the meat processing sector committed to best practice and I hope that helps from your perspective
      With regards to your comments about overconsumption et al of meat we can change the way people think but only they can change their behavoir – we humans are a complicated species and I don’t have all the answers and as mentioned previously my big wish is that we are all kinder to each other

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