Publication - Research and analysis

Mobile abattoirs - viability and sustainability: report

Published: 12 Mar 2020
From:
Director-General Economy
Directorate:
Environment and Forestry Directorate
Part of:
Farming and rural
ISBN:
9781839606076

The findings of a study carried out to determine whether or not mobile slaughter units (MSUs) would be viable in Scotland.

133 page PDF

1.6 MB

133 page PDF

1.6 MB

Contents
Mobile abattoirs - viability and sustainability: report
Appendix 1: Mobile Abattoir Case Studies Data

133 page PDF

1.6 MB

Appendix 1: Mobile Abattoir Case Studies Data

International Mobile Abattoir Case Studies

Overview

A review of international MSU examples was carried out to gain a thorough understanding of the business models, capacities and constraints that overseas mobile abattoirs work in, including an understanding of the impact that they may have on existing abattoirs and supply chains. The case studies are summarised in the tables below, with a brief review of the relevance of the case study to the Scottish situation.

The following case studies have been explored through a combination of desk-top and stakeholder engagement:

  • Sweden (Hälsingestintan)
  • Norway (MobilSlakt)
  • France (SAS Boeuf and Halsingestintan)
  • African Countries, Namibia ( MeatCo):
  • Yukon, Canada:
  • New South Wales, Australia (Provenir)
  • USA (The Island Grown Farmer Cooperative
Sweden (Hälsingestintan)
Table 12. Hälsingestintan engagement data
Criteria Comments
Capacity per day Throughput: 80 head per week (cattle), daily capacity average 30 head per day (actual capacity could be 150, but need to take into account chilling capacity). More than 4,000 cattle processed per annum.

A key issue was limited chilling capacity. Could only kill for 3 days because didn’t have enough chill trucks (one chill truck had a significant problem with condensation).

It was commented that the service was provided over one-shift - an alternative model, which could have increased throughput, being to operate over two shifts. It was indicated that one issue with the service over time was the stress (on staff and animals) associated with trying to increase throughput significantly in one shift.
Staff requirement The MSU typically operated with five to six people (absolute minimum of four), however this didn’t include people operating “behind the scenes”.
Annual sales income Not indicated. It was commented that the service had a planned growth trajectory, moving from a net cost to income over a defined period. It was never profitable in the period of operation, although the gap was closing, but not fast enough.
Services provided and costs The MSU provided the following services:

  • The MSU slaughters the cattle for “free”, the MSU then owns the animal. The farmer was paid 10 euros per hour for assistance e.g. leading the cows to antemortem checks, etc. However, very few farmers opted for this service (<2%).
  • The farmer is charged a fee, which varies depending on the service required:
  • Fee 1.20 euro carcass weight per kg for slaughter,
  • €2.50/kg for slaughter and deboning and packing, and transport.
  • Additional €1.20 if retail packaged.
  • Note: The farmer’s name was printed on the packaging.
Operational costs Approximately 14 months ago, operating costs were €1.40 per kilo, however at the time of closure, these had decreased to €1 per kilo. It was commented that a large-scale abattoir would be operating at approximately €0.50 per kilo.

The CEO indicated that the next generation of mobile abattoirs could get down €0.70 per kilo.
Waste Waste was always owned by the MSU, but left on the farms in storage containers, mixed. The Swedish MSU operated under the European Regulations, it was stated that waste was a big challenge.

Hides did not typically present a problem – the hides were placed into plastic containers, chilled in ice water and transported.

Intestines posed more of a problem – the capacity of the storage container didn’t correlate with the number of carcases being processed. This sometimes resulted in the mixing of waste streams.

Tils, skulls, livers, lungs, etc presented significant issues - overall, the waste storage capacity of the MSU was too small for the throughput. The various categories of waste streams were often mixed, leading to higher disposal costs and less value from items.

The mixing of waste is an aspect of the service which should be addressed in the future, to minimise cost and potentially generate income instead, in some cases.

There was no space for a detain rail, if an animal was deemed unsuitable for human consumption after the post-mortem, slaughtering would need to stop for the day. It should be noted that this would be very rare, and had never happened to his knowledge. It was reported that there had been occaissional problems with liver worms, however it was only the liver that needed to be disposed of separately.
Regulatory requirements and constraints Complies with Sweden Animal Health legislation and Swedac Accredited according to Food Safety System Certification FSSC 22000 v4.1 (downloadable from website)

It was mentioned that it had been straightforward to meet the regulations. Over the years there has been some requirements for consultations e.g. “height pulling”, was a problem, emphasised the importance of co-operative working with regulators.
Type of unit There were two vehicles - one truck for slaughtering and another with chilling infrastructure. Cutting was done at a fixed, dedicated facility.

Unit details: 28.5m long vehicle, plus truck, required 40 x 70m of space, stunning box at rear end, 1.4m high, but when stunning 6.5m high.

Required 2 hours to set up on farm.

Basic process: Animal checked by vet, animal goes into the stunning unit, hatch on the side, open gate, stick and bleed, raise it to the roof (rails in the roof), de-hide, etc, classification, scaling, etc. Out of slaughter unit, into chill trailer to 7 degrees. Height regulations were an issue – need to do suspension. Chiller for 2 days, take carcass to maturation chiller for another 7 to 10 days, deboning and packaging.
Cost information The cost of the MSU was €1million, a chill truck is approximately €200,000. The MSU being used was a prototype and it was identified that there were a number of issues that could be overcome (and had been overcome) in subsequent models.

It is reported that the MSU was primarily financed via bank loans and subsequently private investment. There were no public subsidies.
Context and Background The ethos/USP of the service was to provide “zero transport kilometres” which meant going to individual farms – livestock was not brought to the MSU from other farms.

The“ethical meat” service was specifically aimed at smaller farmers, who generate quality produce and consumers that want to know the origins of their meat (big focus on qr codes, which allow consumers to trace each cut of meat to an individual farm). Overall aim to increase the standard of animal welfare.

Prior to closure, Halsingestintan processed animals from 25 producers.
Reflections on the service A key issue with the service was described as being the sales strategy.

The potential operating models being considered for Scottish MSUs were thought to be positive (involving docking stations at farms, marts etc) and would have made their model more viable e.g. locating at a farm with 15 to 20 cattle to be slaughtered, and then staying there for a number of days as other farmers brought their livestock to the MSU.

There were no retail outlets involved in the model, but when asked, considered that this could have been an important “win”. They were very focussed on having a “safety net” (baseline) client base, to ensure a minimum demand was available, and a retailer could have assisted with this.
Norway (Mobil Slakt)
Table 13. Mobil Slakt, Norway, engagement data
Criteria Comments
Capacity per day/annum 100 sheep per day, or 35 pigs per day. Up to 100Kg cattle could be managed (height restrictions meant that adult cattle were not possible), but rarely processed.

They had 32 slaughter days per annum, all in the autumn/winter (but not when it was too cold e.g. never below -5o Celsius). No slaughter in summer. So, 3,200 capacity/throughput for sheep or 1,120 pigs.

The maximum daily throughput was 1,340 Kg, typically made up of small sheep (circa 10Kg or larger sheep, typicaly in the range 10 to 23 Kg).
Staff requirement 5 people worked in the unit, one cleaning and slaughtering the animal; two eviscerating/pre-cutting and two in the clean side.
Services In the first 5 years they only took sheep, then in 2011 started taking pigs, but vast majority was still sheep.
Annual sales income The service did not break even. It was calculated that it would have needed to operate for 100 days to do so or for it to have the whole value chain embodied in the project (to maximise sales from retail cuts).

For animals under 13Kg they did not charge. Above 13Kg they charged 25 Norwegian Krones (£2.30 Sterling) per Kg.

Some waste could be separated and used for dog food, however, most was rendered because of logistics and cost. The waste was left at the farms, with the farmers then providing Mobil Slakt with the certificate confirming the end fate. The cost of this was sent from the renderer direct to Mobil Slakt.

Waste costs were 5 Norwegian Krone per Kg (circa £0.50 Sterling per Kg). Waste water went to local drains. The waste costs were not considered a significant issue.

Sheep produced 50% meat and 50% waste.
Price of services
Operational costs
Retail No retail cuts provided from the unit and no retail partners involved in the ownership and running of it.
Inspection and certification The unit was authorised to slaughter animals corresponding to 250 tonnes of meat per year in the regions of Hordaland and Sogn og Fjordane.

There were no compliance issues in terms of regulations.

It was commented that in 2014 the European Commission discussed abattoir inspection in Norway and identified Mobil Slakt as the best example in terms of meat quality and animal welfare.
Type of unit Single vehicle, articulated in the middle, separating clean (pre-chiling) from dirty (pre-cutting) side of vehicle.
Capital cost information The unit cost 2.3 million Krone to set up (circa £200,000 pounds sterling, at 0.092 pounds per krone exchange rate). The unit is in storage, with the aim being to sell it in Norway if possible, and if not, a sale outwith the country may be considered.
Context and Background The service provided was slaughtering and then pre-chilling, with a maximum of 2 hours transport to the next/final chill then processing. It is important that the carcase does not get too cold in the first 10 hours. The chill/hanging capacity is 50 carcases (sheep).

The distances travelled were great, sometimes 500km (more than 300 miles).

Mobil Slakt was managed by Torill Malmstrøm, who has provided this consultation response, with the company including around 120 shareholders, before handing the ownership to Torill, to sell the unit.
Contact Details Torill Malmstrøm

post@mobilslakt.no
Germany
Table 14. IG Schlachtung mit Achtung, Germany (translated as “Slaughter with Care”)
Criteria Comments
Date of establishment Operating for one-year (since 2018).
Capacity per day One cow can be slaughtered and transported to the static abattoir at any one time (up to max. 1,300kg).
Staff requirement One member of staff (CCTV installed as standard to ensure high standards of care)
Services Provided Slaughter and transport of cattle to abattoir.
Annual sales income or similar It is reported that the sales price of meat is up to 3 times higher than meat from conventional slaughter and that farmers get twice as much in comparison to standard market prices.
Products This is a slaughter only service, provided in association with the slaughterhouses.
Regulatory requirements and certification There have been some changes to enable the development of semi-mobile slaughter facilities. Some of the key requirements are summarised below:

  • The MSE-200A must be approved as part of an EU-certified slaughterhouse by the veterinary office responsible at the site.
  • A certificate of expertise (according to the Animal Welfare Slaughter Ordinance) is required to carry out the actual slaughter.
  • The MSE-200A fully complies with the requirements of AFFL circulation decision 2017- VI[34] on mobile slaughter and can therefore be authorised as part of a slaughterhouse under Article 4(2) of Regulation (EC) No 853/2004 in accordance with Article 31 of Regulation (EC) No 882/2004. (Decree v. February 2018).
  • The process of anaesthetisation and bleeding must take place within a maximum period of 60 seconds.
  • The process from stunning to evisceration, etc. in a correspondingly EU-certified slaughterhouse must take place within a maximum period of 60 minutes.
Type of unit There is no processing of livestock at the MSU, photos of the unit are provided below, but the basic specification is provided here:

  • It consists of a 19 m³ closed work area with bleeding tilting table and hygiene devices as well as an extendable and retractable fixation module with feeding point.
  • High work safety through automatic head fixation when stunning in anesthesia unit (if necessary re-shooting is possible without danger).
  • High work safety through automatic head fixation / carcass fixation during stinging (chest stitch) / bleeding in the closed stun unit.
  • High work safety through deadman operation, including locked door during the pulling process, entering only after the
  • Hygiene safety, no physical contact (floor / walls, etc.) of the carcass in the slaughter room.
  • Integrated hygiene unit (washable sink, etc.)
  • Safe transport (automatic fixation / load securing) of the carcass in the mobile slaughter unit
  • Performance data vehicle: Kerb weight approx. 1,900 kg, Payload 1300kg, Total permissible weight 3500kg, Support load 100 kg (ball head coupling)
Cost information (set-up costs) MSU costs: €68,000 + VAT

In order to introduce the innovative slaughtering method with the MSE-200A, the relevant federal state ministries offer comprehensive support programmes for small and medium-sized enterprises such as butchers, slaughterhouses or farms. The level is variable, but is reported to be up to 30% within Bavaria.

The system tends to remain on the farm, however it can be rented.
Background, political context and impacts on existing infrastructure Given the recent operation of the MSU and that it is connected to the existing abattoir infrastructure, it is too early to conclude whether there will be any impacts on existing infrastructure.
Yukon, Canada
Table 15. Yukon State, Canada
Criteria Comments
Date of establishment Autumn 2006
Capacity per day “In normal daily operations, the mobile abattoir is able to process 5 beef or elk and up to 10 pigs, sheep or goats. This allows for setup and timely delivery to a cut & wrap facility”

Minimum callout for beef or elk is 2 animals, for pigs, sheep or goats are 4 animals and for rabbits are 25.
Staff requirement A minimum of two (one a government inspector) is reported on-line.
Services Provided The abattoir operators are equipped to skin, eviscerate, dress and cool animal carcases. The mobile abattoir is also equipped with a scalding dehairing machine for pigs. Other functions of slaughter must be provided by the farm. Note: the farmer is responsible for the slaughter of the animals, and slaughter does not take place within the MSU).

Mobile Slaughter Service for red meat livestock is available late April through early November - dependent on weather. The mobile abattoir cannot operate when night-time temperatures drop below -10℃.
Annual sales income or similar The government cover the operating expenses and wages which amount to approximately Canadian $60,000 per year. The contractor also gets a monthly retainer and collects the slaughter fees from the farmer.
Cost to farmer of using service Cost per animal:

  • Beef or Yak: $110
  • Elk: 100
  • Pigs: 55
  • Sheep or goats: 35
  • Rabbits: 7.50
Other costs: travel at $2/km measured one-way from the Whitehorse city limits

* Standby fees: the livestock owner may be charged up to $75/hour for unnecessary delays for which they are responsible.

Costs obtained on-line 24/07/19
Products The farmer has responsibility for the products (note: meat can be sold “farm gate”, which means that it does not need to be inspected).
Regulatory requirements and certification The operating procedures (Appendix A) provide details on the mobile abattoir, and the regulatory requirements for individual farms.

The Yukon government meat inspector provides inspection services during the slaughter process and ensures all federal and territorial regulations and health guidelines are met or exceeded.
Type of unit The mobile abattoir is housed in a fifth wheel trailer custom designed with features for Yukon conditions and provides slaughter, inspection and refrigerated transportation services for red meats such as beef, bison, pork, elk, sheep and goats.

The MSU is 33ft long, 14ft high, 8 ft wide and weighs 21,000lbs

The front of the unit houses a mechanical room and a cooler with refrigeration capacity for up to 8 bison, beef cattle or elk, 15 hogs, or 20 smaller animals such as sheep or goats. The back half of the unit contains overhead winches for lifting the animal into the dressing bed as well as the equipment needed for skinning and evisceration.
Cost information (set-up costs) The unit cost Canadian $150,000 to build 13 years ago. A recent quote for a MSU had been obtained, which was in the region of Canadian $250,000.
Background, political context and impacts on existing infrastructure As indicated above the government was keen to “increase the amount of commercially available, locally grown, government inspected beef, bison, pork and elk for sale in Yukon.

In addition, it is reported that farmers were looking for a way to bring government inspected meat to market.

The MSU was developed based on research carried out by the Yukon Agricultural Association (non-profit). In 2014, the Yukon Agricultural Association published a report which discusses some issues and thoughts for the future[35]. This report helps to provide some context for the MSU and is summarised below.

The Yukon Agricultural Association (YAA) is a non-profit society with a mandate to support and promote agriculture in Yukon. In 2012, YAA secured a 30-year lease on a 65-hectare parcel of land. One of the projects, that the YAA would like to see developed on the land, is effectively the construction of a “docking station” to address some issues and to support the MSU going forward. The following represents some of the key findings arising from the report.

  • Difficult to move large animals from inside rails to outside rails. Need to ensure that carcases can be moved and still meet all inspection codes. Bison has been too big to process in the mobile abattoir.
  • Currently elk farmers use mobile abattoir and then send meat to local butchers for processing. Mobile abattoir would be more useful if accompanied with processing space.
  • Do not want to see public funding for facilities that would compete with local business
  • Space needed to expand abattoir operation from mobile to freestanding. Mobile abattoir has a limited life span and eventually more capacity will be needed to meet the needs of the growing businesses.
  • Need space for more pens near abattoir in the future.
  • Farmers want to take cattle to abattoir and then have meat go directly to market. This will require pens to hold cattle before slaughter.
  • Animal handling facilities need to be designed so that animals are stress-free before slaughtering.
  • Consider contacting stores to find out what kind of meat they will take and when in order to be able to plan storage and freezer space accordingly.
  • Need to put together a good plan for the waste and start educating people about the project.
  • Plan should include cooling and freezing space to increase the efficiency of the mobile abattoir.

The Yukon State Case study appears to be relevant to the Scottish context (with one significant difference – it would appear that many farmers were previously slaughtering cattle and selling the meat “farm gate”, therefor the difficulty has been trying to convince farmers to pay for slaughter, rather than competing with any significant existing infrastructure).

The United States of America
Table 16. The Island Grown Farmer Cooperative ( IGFC) mobile processing unit ( MPU), USA
Criteria Comments
Capacity per day 9-10 head beef (or 35lamb or 15 pigs). Processes approximately 2500lbs per day.
Staff requirement 2 butchers work for 8 hours, per day, under inspection. Extra for drive-time, set-up and clean up. The MPU is in operation 4 days/week, (requirement to take meat back to the processing plant and do truck/trailer cleaning/maintenance). Employs 6 people over-all (includes management and p/t cleaning staff)
Services slaughter & process; raw sausage; case-ready, retail packaging
Annual sales income $500,000 (all services, not including the value of meat processed
Price of services Slaughter: $40 lamb or goat, $55 pig, $105 steer. In order to have the unit come to their farm, producers have to have a minimum slaughter amount of $450. Cutting (to case ready) = $1.05/lb lamb, $0.82/lb steer, $0.6071 pig (plus 10% price increase, spring ’08). Sausage = $1.25/lb for links. (For farmers not in the co-op, prices are slightly higher.)
Operational costs ~$294,500/yr. Fee structure is designed to break even or be slightly profitable. The trailer gets ~10 miles/gallon.
Retail On-site sales: Open 2 days/wk, earns $9000/mo.

Other outlets for members:

off-farm, farmers markets, restaurants, grocery stores, farm stands). Only a few sell wholesale.
Inspection and certification USDA inspected and certified organic. No other requirements - rinse water and offal are composted on-farm.
Type of unit Standard 36 foot unit
Cost information The total cost for the project was $150,000 in 2000. Trailer $60,000

Equipment & Installation $27,000

Truck $18,000

Design/ Project Mgmt. $25,000

Testing $15,000

Outreach $ 5,000

The MPU was paid for with grants, and private donations from the farmers and other individuals in the community.

Once the MPU was built, the co-operative didn’t need additional outside funding. Members pay a service fee and an initial capital charge of $600 from each of the 30 starting members (now 60 members). Rates were set to break even in the first year. Co-op member farms are all within 100 miles of each other (1-2 hours drive), which is stated to be the largest area the MPU can serve efficiently.
Context and Background The farmers in San Juan County (Washington State) lacked access to USDA slaughter and processing, and were unable to transport their animals to facilities on the mainland. Quote:

“Central to their success is this fact: none of these farmers has any other options for slaughter/processing, so they have to make this one work and keep it afloat.”

From an initial desktop review, this case study appears to represent an applicable example for Scotland, although to date there has been no contact with farmers to establish demand. It is also worth noting that there are numerous outlets for the end-products, with a large demand for locally grown food.
Contact Details Information obtained from https://articles.extension.org/pages/15739/island-grown-farmers-cooperative-updated-32018 (accessed 30/01/19)

Attempted contact made with Bruce Dunlop (manufacturer) on four occaissions.
Australia
Table 17. Chris Belazs, Provenir, Australia
Criteria Comments
Capacity per day Designed to process 10 beef or 75 lambs per day.
Staff requirement Four staff
Services Purchase livestock from the farmers (10-12% uplift on what the farmer would receive from a sale yard). The MSU then slaughters and processes the meat.

Provenir own the butchery plant. The meat is processed into 49 different products – key aspect of an MSU is the ability to gain value from the whole carcass.
Annual sales income The MSU became operational in June 2019.
Price of services See above.
Operational costs Commercially confidential, however there was a discussion surrounding operational models.

Provenir had looked at providing a service model e.g. providing contract kills for farmers, however had concluded that the economics didn’t work (could not charge the farmers enough, for it to be self-sustaining). Considered a co-operative, which was felt to be a better option than a service model, but Provenir ultimately went for an acquisition service because it enabled them to maximise value from each carcass and brand and sell the meat.
Retail A key aspect is that the meat is sold as a premium product. Although not discussed within the consultation, the meat can be home delivered, purchased at retail outlets and is sold within some restaurants. It should be noted that at the time of the consultation (8th August 2019), 65 animals had been processed through the MSU.

The company had recently won the Australian Food Awards best in class for branded meat.
Type of unit The unit was designed by Provenir and is custom built. It requires
a special licence due to its size. It is approximately 3m x 12m, with a
pop-top for large cattle. The MSU is completely self-sufficient, with amenities, toilet, power, etc.
Capex cost information This is commercially confidential, but was stated to be seven-figures (AUS$). The capex costs were supported through a mix of grants, support; however it is a private company.
Regulatory Context A key difference between Australian and Scottish regulations is that the EPA regulations do not apply to small-scale operations (which the MSU falls under), therefore farmers can bury or compost “waste” at the farm, which removes some of the cost and storage issues.
Context and Background In Australia, there is a strong ethical awareness of animal welfare, with many consumers choosing to switch from meat consumption to vegan/ vegetarian. It is estimated that for most people, the switch back to meat consumption is between 6 weeks – 6 months, however this group of people were much more likely to pay extra for their ethics. Provenir carried out a survey of 4000 people, 79% of people indicated that they would pay between 20-25% more for ethical meat (this premium is required to cover the costs of farm slaughter).

Provenir are yet to determine whether the results from their survey are aspirational/ behavioural. Provenir meat is strongly branded (see website: www.provenir.com.au, with consumers able to trace their meat. Provenir are part of a research programme, they will be carrying out analysis that looks at the chemical composition of their and how this influences taste and meat quality (within 4 – 6 months).

It was stressed that the MSU needs to be based on the “pain point of the consumer and not the farmer”. In Australia, there is a gap in the market for ethically produced meat that static abattoirs and farmers struggle to tap into.
New Zealand

Prices for the MSU (and conventional abattoir kill) are taken directly from the butcher website are provided here for comparison

Table 18. MSU Slaughter Prices for Netherby Butchers, New Zealand (New Zealand dollar prices shown)
Beef Lamb Pork
On-farm MSU $130.00/beast on farm MSU $40.00+pelt On farm MSU under 75kg

On farm MSU over 75kg
$80.00 each

$100.00 each
Offal removal (if required) $20.00/beast Offal removal (if required) $5.00 /sheep Not indicated
Abattoir killing and processing $1.50kg + killing fee Abattoir killing and cartage $40.00 each Abattoir killing under 75kg

Abattoir killing over 75kg
$80.00 each

$95.00 each
Beef processing charges $1.50 per kg (bone in weight) Lamb processing charges $40.00 each Pork processing charges (> 75kg) $100.00 each
Basic Processing includes:

  • Fillet, Ribeye, Porterhouse, Rump Steak
  • Roast Beef
  • Corned Silverside
  • Blade, Crosscut and Stewing Steak
  • Mince
  • Weiner Schnitzel
  • All Vacuum packed
Basic processing Includes:

  • Leg Roasts
  • Chops
  • Rolled, Seasoned, Forequarters
Basic processing includes:

  • Roasts
  • Chops
  • Strips
  • Diced Pork
  • Steaks/Schnitzel

Contact

Email: socialresearch@gov.scot