Blake's Abattoir Visit | Agriculture

A few weeks ago I was told I was on the college team to visit Smithfield Market at the end of the month (November) to do stock judging. We were informed there would be a 'Mystery Challenge' so in preparation for this, we were taken to Blake's Abattoir to take a look at carcasses and learn how to score them correctly - something we had been learning about in my livestock theory classes.

On The Day

On Friday 16th November, we took a trip to Blake's Abattoir in Taverham/Costessy in Norfolk. The tour of the abattoir took us from around 11 till 1 which gave us a good amount of time to learn a whole lot.

Firstly, we were taken into a meeting room where we had to sign a disclaimer that we would not take any photos in the abattoir and we were provided with disposable lab coats, hair nets and shoe covers. We were then taken through to a room where we had to wash our hands and our wellies before entering the main area. Thank goodness we were provided with the shoe covers because as you can imagine, the floor was covered in blood! Our tour guide shall we call him, took us through the rules of entering the area and what to do incase of a fire etc.

Judging Carcasses

We were taken through into a large refrigerated room in which around 6 - 8 lamb carcasses were hanging. The man handed us all guides on how to judge the carcasses correctly using a system called EUROP to judge the conformation and then a system numbered from 1 - 5 including a high and low 3 and 4 to judge the fat class. We were talked through the score of each of the carcasses hanging up and what makes a good carcasses and what you're looking for across the legs, back, loin and shoulders. After being briefed over those, he then brought through 5 more which we were instructed to judge and pick out the best and the worst working in pairs and all of us go it correct.

Whilst all this was going on, a set of doors at the other end of the room were opened up where the slaughtering of pigs was taking place. They were wheeling the pigs through into the room we were in and at one point we were sandwiched between the sheep and the pigs, it was a very odd experience.

After finishing up with the sheep once we were all happy with how to correctly score a sheep carcass, we were then taken through to another refrigerated room where cow carcasses were hanging. I found the cows particularly fascinating as you can find out so much about the cow just from the carcass such as how to sex the cow from male or female depending on whether a certain bit of cartilage called the pizzle root was present or not which would indicate it was a male if it was present and a female if not as this bit of cartilage was part of the tube that would be connected to the penis. Following on from that, depending on the shape of the tube, you can tell whether it was a Steer or a Bull (a steer is a castrate male meaning that it cannot impregnate a female). When taking a look at the females, you can tell whether it was a heifer or a cow from the angle of the aitch bone and the width of the channel. If the aitch bone is at quite an acute angle then it is likely to have been a heifer whereas if the bone is quite straight, it is likely to have been a cow along with a wider channel.

The cow carcasses themselves were so massive I couldn't quite believe how huge they were as they almost seemed larger than a cow I've ever seen, it was so bizarre!

By this time after standing in to very, very cold refrigerated rooms it was safe to say we were all rather cold and fortunately we were all done with the carcasses. To finish the tour, the man took us through to where the slaughtering itself took place and at the time we visited, they were slaughtering pigs. It was quite interesting to see where it actually took place, there are multiple slaughter men standing at different stations all carrying out different tasks.

The Slaughtering Process (Pigs)

- The pig is stunned and throat cut.

- The body is placed into a boiling hot bath where the fur is removed.

- The body is then hung up and put through a dryer which look a bit like a drive through car wash!

- The body is then checked by inspectors.

- Then the chest is cut open and all the vital organs are removed and placed into separate boxes.

- Then the body is put into a tall container/machine where the body is cut down the centre only staying connected at the head.

- Then about 5 or more slaughter men then take it in turns to remove as much as possible from the inside of the pig.

- Once this process is completed, the pig is then moved into one of the refrigerated rooms.

This week (WC 19/11), I was informed by my livestock lecturer that I would be judging show calves confirmation at Smithfield Market when we visit on Friday 30th November 2018.

I hope you found this blog post very interesting and hopefully very educational. I enjoyed writing this up and familiarising myself with it all again, seeing how much I really did learn from the day!

Much Love,

Jazmine x