The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has procured a Mobile Slaughter Unit (MSU) and a Mobile Chiller Unit (MCU) under its Samoa Agriculture Competitive Enhancement Project (SACEP) funded by the World Bank.
The MSU contains a ramp with cradle for skinning the cow, a crane to lift the cow from the ground on to the ramp with cradle. It has a chiller which can hold 3 cows for transportation. It also has a water pump and tank which can hold 150 liters of water. All of these run off the truck’s engine.
The MCU is basically a chiller on wheels which has a capacity to hold 3 carcasses. It has its own generator for its power. It is used when the number of animals slaughter in one go is more than three and is towed by the MSU.
As mentioned above the MSU contains a ramp with a cradle. This is to place the cow on its back after stunning and bleeding for removing of the hide. It is also good to note that the MSU contains an electrical stimulator to stimulate the cow after stunning, this is to increase the drop in muscle pH. After slaughter the carcass is then transferred in to the chiller for transportation.
The MSU is a huge improvement from the bush kill and most of equipment on the MSU and what it does contribute to meat tenderness or stop tough meat from becoming tougher. The ramp with the cradle is an improvement from using coconut leaves, leaves of any tree or paper boxes which are placed on the sides while skinning. The crane is an improvement whereby the cow is hooked to the crane and it does all the lifting an improvement from slaughter men lifting the carcasses with their dirty clothes. The chiller is an improvement from transporting at the back of pick-ups and trucks in the sun one quarter placed over the other increasing the carcass temperature making the meat tougher. Moreover there will be no flies or dust while on the road.
The MSU is also equipped with a slaughter man and a qualified meat inspector. The Meat inspector will perform an ‘ante-mortem inspection’ to determine if the intended cow to be slaughtered is fit for slaughter. He/She will also perform a ‘post mortem inspection’ to determine whether the beef carcass is fit for human consumption.
With the SACEP project the Ministry aims to improve the standard of slaughtering our cattle. The only abattoir in Samoa was the WESTECs 30 years ago and since then our farmers have been slaughtering on farm under coconut trees or wherever they find the cattle or ‘bush kill’. Although this practice was good as considered by many, judging from the fact that there was no major outbreak of food poison or any other disease associated with the bush kill. There is still a need to improve the way we slaughter in terms of health and food safety and in terms of markets.
In terms of markets the local beef cannot compete with the imported beef at the high end level. Most hoteliers and top restaurants prefer imported beef because they cannot afford to take the risk of using tough local beef. Hoteliers and restaurants have stressed their desire to use local beef for their menus for that full Samoan experience but could not afford to take the risk of serving tough beef to customers.
There are a lot of factors that are associated with meat tenderness in particular the slaughtering technique. Farmers need to understand that slaughtering does have a huge effect on meat tenderness. For our local beef to compete with the overseas beef our beef industry should work as a whole to produce good quality beef and the Ministry has taken the first step by procuring the MSU.
The MSU is in compliance with the Slaughter and Meat Supply Act 2015. This act enforces that all cattle intended for the retailing system should be slaughtered in an approved MSU or abattoir. It has a transition period of no more than three years and after that period the only way a beef can enter the retailer is through our MSU.
It started its service in February and is now open to all the farmers. Farmers are required to tether the cow if he or she has no stockyard to keep the animal. It is also recommended not to chase the animal before slaughter as this also has an impact on meat tenderness. Farmers need to contact our Animal Production and Health Division at Vaea if they want to use this service. Telephone numbers 21052/26529.