Meat Science Newsletter: Volume 2, Issue 1

  1. Ohio Meat Industry Newsletter - May 2020

    Dr. Lyda G. Garcia, Fresh Meat Extension Specialist, Department of Animal Sciences
    Dr. Lynn Knipe, Processed Meat Extension Specialist, Departments of Animal Sciences and Food Science

    At long last, we are getting the OSU Meat Industry Newsletter under way. This newsletter is intended to communicate information to meat processors that is hopefully helpful in producing safe and high quality meat products. We hope to get contributions from all of the OSU meat science faculty on topics that are important to you.  Our plan is to have a new newsletter available every two months.

    In addition to the meat science articles, we will highlight articles on other topics that have been published in newspapers and magazines (non-technical publications) on nutritional value of meat, alternative meat products, meat consumption, etc. You will find these under the Consumer Information Tab, on the home page of this website, which originally was intended for consumers. But consider these a resource that you might use for when your customers are asking you questions about these issues.

    You will also find some Meat Industry News articles, under the News Tab on the home page, which has articles about meat companies around Ohio. This small collection is what we have found, but we would encourage you to send me news stories about your companies that can be added to this site.

    Subscription Process for this Newsletter

    You are getting this first issue as a result of being on our Ohio Meat Industry List Serve, but to get future newsletters, you will need to subscribe at the bottom of this page.

    Upcoming Short courses

    It has been difficult to plan future short courses during these uncertain times, but we are proposing the following:

    July 22-23: Intro HACCP for Meat & Poultry Processors

    August 20-21: Advanced HACCP

    September 21-23: Thermal Processing of Ready-to-Eat Meat Products

    October 19-20: Introduction to Process Control for Meat & Poultry Processors

    October TBD:  Intro HACCP for Meat & Poultry Processors

    November 12-13: Labeling for Meat & Poultry Processors

    Please, go to the Events tab of our website at: for more details as they become available.

    Please note the articles in this newsletter that we have written in response to issues related to meat processing and the COVID-19 pandemic.  Some are written more for producers, but feel free to pass them on to anyone that you know who is wanting to slaughter animals on their farm.

    Available Plants in Ohio

    Please let us know if you know of any plants around Ohio which are currently standing idle, or about to become available for sale/rent.  We are getting a number of calls about companies wanting to start new plants, and some have considered building new facilities.  We are encouraging them to get their feet wet in an existing facility before building a new building..

    Funding Opportunity

    I have received the following information from someone in Omaha, NE but am not sure how feasible it is to get funding to help with the additional business resulting from the current pandemic situation.

    For those meat processors located in communities that receive HUD Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding, it may help.  HUD has allocated CDBG-CV funds specifically to address coronavirus needs and it can be used for equipment like coolers, worker protective coverings, facility expansion, or to hire more workers.  If used for labor, at least 51% of the jobs need to go to low-to-moderate income households.  This quick guide from HUD explains how the funds can be used.  


  2. Talking Points: COVID-19’s Effect on the Meat Supply

    Dr. Jonathan Campbell, Ph.D.; Pennsylvania State University
    Dr. Lyda G. Garcia, Ph.D.; The Ohio State University
    Dr. Gregg Rentfrow, Ph.D.; University of Kentucky

    Can I get COVID-19 by eating contaminated food or meat or Is it safe to eat food/meats if it has been handled by a worker with COVID-19?

    According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be contracted through food. Currently, there is no evidence of the disease being transmitted through food or meat. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness contracted via person-to-person contact. Traditional food safety measures (especially proper hand washing) and thorough cooking should always be followed.

    Can I get sick by handing food and/or meat packages if COVID-19 has contaminated the surface?

    According to the FDA and USDA, there is no evidence of COVID-19 being transmitted through food/meat packages. In addition, according to the FDA, you do not have to wash your food containers to prevent COVID-19 infection. Never try to wash meat in the sink and/or spray/dip food products into chemicals commonly used for household cleaning. To ensure safety, you should always wash your hands or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content as soon as you can after handling packages or leaving a retail establishment. Be sure to disinfect food preparation areas according to chemical manufacture recommendations.

    Can COVID-19 be transmitted through imported food or packaging from COVID-19 positive countries?

    According to the FDA and USDA there is no evidence of COVID-19 being transmitted through imported foods, meats, or packaging.

    I’m hearing about meat plants being closed due to workers contracting COVID-19, will this cause meat shortages?

    The meat industry is devoted to maintaining the supply chain. Although some plants have temporarily closed and others have slowed production, the meat industry began to prepare for interruptions in the supply chain once the coronavirus began to spread globally. Currently, the industry does not foresee any interruptions in the supply chain. Those meat processing plants that have closed are deep cleaning, beyond traditional cleaning and sanitizing measures, as well as working with the state and local health departments to reopen as soon as it is safe. Consumers should not panic buy or stockpile meats but maintain traditional buying patterns.

    What is the meat industry doing to maintain the supply chain?

    Overall total meat sales have declined, but retail sales have and continue to increase. The temporary closure of restaurants and other food service establishments have caused overall total meat sales to decline. However, restaurant and food service meats are being transferred to meet the needs of retail grocery stores. In addition, the USDA-Food Safety and Inspection Service is working with the industry to help ensure that the supply chain remains intact and safe. Moreover, the meat industry, is working very hard to maintain the meat supply. Consumers can help the meat industry to maintain consistent supplies by avoiding panic buying or stockpiling.

    What are meat plants doing to help their workers remain healthy during the pandemic?

    Social distancing has become the new buzz word. Part of the reason some meat plants are reducing production is to institute and enforce social distancing. Most plants are staggering shifts, breaks, and lunch times, along with installing tents, to allow workers to social distance. Furthermore, they are taking temperatures and overall health assessments of each worker at the beginning of each shift, and workers are required to wear masks, gloves, and eye protection. Plastic dividers are also being installed when social distancing is not possible. Workers that do become ill are still receiving pay while they recover.

    What is the USDA – Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) doing to maintain the meat supply and staying healthy?

    Mandatory meat inspection is the law. The USDA-FSIS is working with the meats industry to make sure meat inspectors are present at all inspected processing facilities. If an inspector becomes ill, a replacement or relief inspector is sent to fulfil the duties; even inspectors that have been promoted from day-to-day line inspection are returning to meet the needs. In addition, the FSIS is working with state and local health departments to reopen closed plants to make sure all workers are safe.

    Overall thoughts

    The meats industry, the USDA, and farmers are trying to maintain the supply chain. Understandably, the media is reporting on the meat plant closures and slowed production. Please understand everyone is trying to make sure safe, healthy food is available to consumers. Meat plants that have closed are testing employees for COVID-19, performing deep cleanings in the plants, instituting safety measures including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), promoting social distancing, as well as working with state and local health departments to reopen as soon as possible. Consumers can help by avoiding panic buying and stockpiling. By working together, we can make sure there is plenty for everyone.

  3. What You Need to Know About Animal Processing on the Farm in Ohio

    Dr. Lyda G. Garcia, Meat Extension Specialist - Fresh Meat Processing, Department of Animal Sciences
    C. Lynn Knipe, Meat Extension Specialist - Meat Processing, Department of Animal Sciences and Food Science


    Animal processing on farm is a practice of harvesting (slaughtering) one’s own food animals to provide for their own families. Today, it is not a common practice because our food supply is abundant, and resources are readily available.

    What does the law say about “Animal Processing on Farm?”

    Processing on the farm is not illegal; however, the meat must not be sold. This process is only allowed when the food animal is specifically intended for the farmer’s own family. Selling uninspected meat, as is the practice in animal processing on farm, is considered a crime in Ohio. 

    What if I want to sell meat cuts from my animals?

    Meat would need to have been processed by a fully inspected establishment, with the inspection logo (Inspected by USDA-FSIS or state inspection with the Ohio Department of Agriculture) on the package.

    What if I want to process for my neighbor?

    If animals, owned by a second party, are slaughtered on the farm, a custom slaughter license is required through the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Division of Meat Inspection.  Recommending a mobile slaughter unit do the slaughtering for your neighbor might be a better option. The regulations for these processes can be found at Ohio Administrative Code 901:2-104 (C) (1).

    Can anyone perform this task?

    A skilled, highly-trained person is strongly recommended to lead this practice. Someone who is very experienced, skilled in this line of work, and fully understands the importance of animal welfare, humane stunning, sanitary dressing procedures, processing  into primal, subprimal, and retail cuts is ideal.

    What’s at stake?

    Even though good intentions are at the forefront of this type of practice, without the use of an ideal setup, including an inspector and proper tools and equipment of a meat processor, food safety may be at risk. Outdoor processing allows for an acceptable environment, but a risk of cross contamination due to improper dressing procedures and inadequate sanitation can, and will, pose a risk resulting in illness, or even death.

    What should you be looking for before and during the slaughter process to determine that a carcass is safe for consumption?

    First, does the live animal look healthy? If not, it is not recommended that you slaughter that animal for consumption. The 4D’s to consider before slaughter (listed below) would all be condemned in an inspected slaughter plant:

    • Down
    • Disabled
    • Diseased
    • Dead

    It is important to look for obvious signs of disease on the head, viscera (internal organs) in the main cavity of the body, and the carcass during slaughter, such as:

    • Septicemia (blood poisoning): congestion or inflammation of the lungs, intestines, kidneys, inner surface of the chest or abdominal cavity – carcass should be condemned.
    • Abscesses found throughout carcass – carcass should be condemned.
    • Jaundiced meat, resulting from cirrhosis of the liver - carcass should be condemned.
    • Enlarged lymph nodes

    If signs of disease are observed, it is important to have a veterinarian examine the carcass to ensure that the meat is safe for consumption.  An on-line document that offers some good pictures can be found at 

    After skinning, evisceration and rinsing with water, it is recommended that the carcass be thoroughly sprayed with a vinegar solution with a clean garden sprayer, to destroy E. coli on beef carcasses and Salmonella on pork carcasses. This vinegar solution is made by diluting commercial vinegar (5% acetic acid) by half with water.

    Asking your local veterinarian to be on sight for professional answers is recommended.

    What Bacteria should you be concerned about?

    Escherichia coli (E. coli)

    “Escherichia coli” (E. coli) bacteria normally lives in the intestines of people and animals. Most E. coli are harmless and are an important part of a healthy human intestinal tract. However, some E. coli are pathogenic, meaning they can cause illnesses such as diarrhea or an illness outside of the intestinal tract. The types of E. coli that can cause diarrhea can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or persons. E coli O157:H7 is a common pathogen found in feces. Someone consuming e. coli O157:H7 runs a risk of developing hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

    HUS: Around 5–10% of those who are diagnosed with STEC (Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli) infection could develop a potentially life-threatening complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Clues that a person is developing HUS include decreased frequency of urination, feeling very tired, and losing pink color in cheeks and inside the lower eyelids. Persons with HUS should be hospitalized due to the potential for kidney failure and the damage of other organs permanently, and/or they could develop other serious conditions. Most persons with HUS can recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent damage or die” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014).

    Salmonella: “Most people with Salmonella infection suffer from diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps that  can be found in the intestines of humans and animals.

    Symptoms usually begin six hours to six days after infection and last four to seven days. However, some people do not develop symptoms for several weeks after infection and others experience symptoms after several weeks.

    Salmonella strains sometimes cause infection in urine, blood, bones, joints, or the nervous system (spinal fluid and brain) and can cause severe disease” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014).

    Campylobacter:Campylobacter infection, or campylobacteriosis, is caused by Campylobacter bacteria. It is the most common bacterial cause of diarrheal illness in the United States. People with Campylobacter infection usually have diarrhea (often bloody), fever, and stomach cramps. Nausea and vomiting may accompany the diarrhea. Symptoms usually start two to five days after infection and last about one week. Some people experience complications, such as irritable bowel syndrome, temporary paralysis, and arthritis. Campylobacter can be carried in the intestines, liver, and other organs of animals and can be transferred to other edible parts when an animal is slaughtered. Found in chickens, turkeys, and cows and many other animals.”

    Source: (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014)..

    Groups Most at Risk:

    • People with a weakened immune system
    • Adults older than 50, especially with underlying medical issues
    • Infants (children younger than 12 months).
    • Pregnant women

    Basic Food Safety Measures:

    • Temperature: weather is something that should be accounted for. It is best to find the coolest part of the day to work in. The cooler it is, the slower bacteria will replicate and grow. Bacterial life begins at 40°F.
    • Keep in mind that bacteria associated with this line of work can replicate/grow best between 40°F and 140°F. This temperature range is known as the Danger Zone.
    • The sooner you can place carcasses in a cold environment (ranging between 34°F-39°F), the less the potential for risk.
      • If refrigerated space is not available to chill the carcass, home butchering should only take place when the outside temperature is below 40°F, until the carcass can be processed and refrigerated or preferably packaged and frozen.
    • It is best to remember the 3 C’s. Keep it:
      • Cold
      • Covered
      • Clean
    • Equipment/Tools: Knives and handsaws should be washed frequently, between strokes. This will help reduce cross contamination (harvest and processing). 
    • Boiling water is recommended for sanitizing knives in during the slaughter process.
    • Water: The use of clean, potable water is critical, as a well a pressured hose to wash carcasses, tools and/or equipment. Carcasses should be rinsed/washed starting from the top, then work downward allowing gravity to work in your favor.
    • Soap: It should be used to wash equipment, tools, and hands. “Dawn” dishwashing liquid is recommended because it works best on cutting through, cleaning, and removing fat and grease.
    • Aprons: Plastic and rubber material aprons are the best choices; these materials are ideal to wash and rinse.
    • Hands and forearms: Do not cross your dirty hand with your clean hand. Wash hands and forearms frequently, in between steps, to minimize cross contamination.
    • Head Gear: A baseball cap will help reduce hair contamination, especially during the processing step.
    • Tables: should be of nonporous material that is easy to clean.

    Things to Consider:

    • Disposal of wastewater, inedible parts, and blood
    • Smells attracting pests
    • Noise and smells disturbing neighbors

    Recommendation for Assistance with Questions:


    • Ohio Department of Agriculture
    • Your county health department
    • County cooperative extension office
    • Your local veterinarian

    Disclaimer: This information is intended to inform those thinking about, or involved, in processing animals on the farm. The information provided is intended to present the importance of food safety and risks that come with it. It is not intended to explain the process of dressing procedures, nor promote this type of scenario. Meat processing is complicated, it should not be taken lightly. Person(s) involved should understand that carelessness is not an option with food safety.

  4. Buying From a Local Meat Processor and Why it Matters

    Dr. Lyda G. Garcia, Meat Extension Specialist - Fresh Meat Processing, Department of Animal Sciences
    Dr. C. Lynn Knipe, Meat Extension Specialist – Processed Meats, Departments of Animal Sciences and Food Science


    During the 1920’s – 1980’s, finding a local meat processor in the United States, commonly known as a meat butcher, was not hard to find. Back then, either the meat processor harvested (slaughtered) their own food animals and sold meat cuts out of their retail shop or hanging carcasses were shipped to them, as either halves or quartered, by rail car or refrigerated truck to be processed. As the large-scale meat packers began to expand, the introduction of boxed, vacuum packaged, subprimal cuts lead to the introduction of boxed meat. It was introduced in the later 1960’s, but did not take off until the early 1980’s. This extra step incorporated at the large-scale meat plant slowly began to reduce the existence of the local meat processor.

    Today, grocery stores provide an array of meat cuts in various packages, flavors (preseason, marinated), precooked, etc., with full intent in providing a convenience to the customer by simply eliminating a step or two in the cooking preparation, which provides for a very wealthy country. With large-scale meat plants able to harvest thousands of food animals per day, the meat supply adds up throughout the year that sets the stage for grocery stores to provide all the products American consumers demand, plus some However, in recent days, the United States is experiencing a pandemic that has significantly impacted our food, and meat industries. With the many unknowns of the corona virus, this has led meat companies to exhaust all possible intervention steps to tackle this virus and eliminate, or reduce, its spread. This pandemic has caused many meat plants to either slow down or stop their operations temporary, or permanently, which initially forced a small ripple extending to our grocery stores. A piece of the puzzle that needs to be highlighted are our livestock producers providing food animals to these meat plants. Many of our producers have been left, scratching their heads, feeling frustrated and scared, trying to figure out what to do with their animals. Some producers have turned to local meat processors to help alleviate some of these worries.

    Meat processors serve as the middleman between the livestock producer and customer. Over the years, due to the expansion of large-scale packers, meat processors have stayed in the shadows, for those who remain in the business are only appreciated by those who acknowledge them. You may not realize, but your local meat processor provides many benefits compared to a grocery store, as the history, knowledge, art, and passion of the business are the driver to offering this service. Your local meat processor plays a critical role in not just supplying meat products to American consumers, but also helping our livestock producers and providing job opportunities.

    Large supermarkets have been buying some processed products (ham, sausage, bacon, etc.) from your local processors to provide local products in their stores.  Why not go directly to the source for these products?

    Ohio and Meat Processors

    With an estimated 3,585,000 livestock produced in Ohio, meat production remains a critical necessity. Currently, an estimated four hundred meat facilities exist in Ohio ranging from federal and state inspected to custom exempt. If there is something to learn from a pandemic, such as COVID-19,  it the critical role meat processors play in the lives of the everyday producer and consumer. With ~ 75% of the beef market shares coming from four large-scale beef packing plants and ~ 60% of pork coming from three pork large-scale plants, the pros and cons quickly surface when a pandemic arrives unexpectedly. As customers begin to question, the time has come to start looking into buying from a local meat processor. Below is a list of reasons why you should buy your local:

    1.  Food comes directly from an Ohio producer.
    2.  Buying local helps our farmers/producers of Ohio.
    3.  Buying local helps the economy (business and industry).
    4.  Help secure local jobs.
    5.  Have an opportunity to ask questions directly with employees – available customer service.
    6.  Food transparency: It’s easy to trace the origin of the meat that you are buying.
    7.  You can get to know the employees serving you.
    8.  Save money and still buy a quality product.
    9.  Less chance of them running out – for those offering a slaughter as a service.
    10.  May find regional or culturally unique cuts and processed products that you don’t see in large supermarkets.

    Something to Know

    These meat processors must be licensed under either the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service, Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) or your county health department to sell meat products.  Currently, licensed with ODA Division of Meat Inspection, there are 178 fully inspected meat facilities and 86 custom only facilities.  Most of the fully inspected facilities have a retail room where you can purchase fresh and processed products, such as sausage, bacon, etc.  The custom exempt facilities are intended to only provide a slaughter service for customers who own an animal, and some may have a retail space. 

    A list of state meat processors can be found on ODA’s website:


    Lyda G. Garcia, PhD
    Assistant Professor of Meat Science
    Meat Extension Specialist, Fresh Meat Processing
    Meat Judging Coordinator
    Department of Animal Sciences

    C. Lynn Knipe, PhD
    Associate Professor
    Meat Extension Specialist, Meat Processing
    Department of Animal Sciences
    Department of Food Science and Technology

    OSU Meat Science Extension: