The Need for Mechanization

As a major producer of sheep meat for export, the New Zealand meat industry has over the last decade invested heavily in the development of slaughter, dressing, and boning equipment for sheep and lambs. This equipment was developed with inputs from meat processing companies, farmer producer boards, government research agencies, commercial engineering companies, and the Meat Industry Research Institute of New Zealand (MIRINZ). The program was initiated in response to increased labor costs and the need to meet more stringent hygiene regulations that had decreased slaughter and dressing productivity.

Table 2 illustrates the effect of carcass size and of mechanization on the labor requirements for processing various meat species from stunning to evisceration. The first column gives the number of worker-hours required to dress 10,000 kg of carcass weight. In the second column these data are adjusted to take into account the fact that mutton, lamb, and beef processing produces two salable products (the carcass and the skin or pelt), whereas for chicken and pork, the feathers and hair are of little economic value. With traditional manual dressing systems, even when the worker-hours are adjusted to take pelt value into account, the labor input for sheep and lambs is two to four times that for the other species. Therefore, for sheep meats to be competitive with other meats, the labor requirement of traditional sheep and lamb slaughter and dressing had to be reduced through mechanization.

Beef and pork have a high average carcass weight, which reduces the labor requirement to produce 10,000 kg of carcasses, because the manning for many operations (ie, hock removal, evisceration) is not affected by carcass size. On the other hand, although chickens have a very small carcass size, the labor requirement is relatively low primarily because chicken processing is heavily mechanized.

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