Dr. J Abraham
Consultant Meat Technologist
Former Director and Professor, Centre of Excellence in Meat Science and Technology,
College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Mannuthy, Thrissur
Cellphone: 9447070919, E-mail: johnabraham.dr@gamil.com

With the world’s population predicted to reach nine billion by 2050, we face the challenge to ensure the supply of affordable, nutritious food, without decimating the earth’s natural resources.  Poor diet stunts the growth of 162 million children every year, 97 per cent of them in developing countries.  A doubling in global food demand projected for the next 50 years pose huge challenges. India faces a major challenge in providing food security and nutritional security in the light of decreasing land holdings, over exploitation of natural resources, declining productivity and population explosion. Globalization has considerable potential to significantly influence both food security and poverty with opening up of economies, international trade liberalization, free flow of capital, labour, and information technology which by itself is a paradigm shift making significant changes in livestock sector, agriculture and industries. In the wake of global food scarcity, it is high time for us to take stock of India’s position and suitably adopt efficient production systems and processing technologies to increase productivity, safety, efficiency, viability and sustainability. There are other emerging challenges on account of global warming, changes in climate, unforeseen diseases and pests. As such, it is essential to draw up directions with appropriate vision for future farming systems, crop – livestock interaction, post-harvest technologies, packaging, cold chain, and marketing.

It is estimated that the global demand for meat will increase by 57% while that for cereals and milk will increase by 35% and 40 % respectively by the year 2020. While our Indian domestic requirement for meat is increasing tremendously, we are all aware that the export potential is at the highest threshold. India remains one of the countries with the lowest per capita meat consumption in the world, standing at just 5.6 kg in 2016 – way behind the global average of 33.2 kg.  With a population of nearly 1.3 billion, even a tiny per capita consumption increase has the potential to translate into a significant rise in market volumes, not to mention the enormous potential for growth harboured by this latent market as it gradually creeps towards global average consumption levels. In the next ten years, it is predicted that the total consumption of meat in India will double from its present numbers.  As per capita income of individuals rises, they tend to spend on improving their lifestyle and food consumption habits.

At 485 million, India has the world’s largest livestock population, accounting for over 55% and 16% of the world’s buffalo and cattle populations respectively (the world’s largest bovine population). It ranks first in goat, second in sheep and camels and fifth in poultry populations in the world. The contribution of meat from buffalo is about 23.33%, while  cattle contributes about 17.34%, sheep 4.61%, goat 9.36%, pig 5.31%, poultry 36.68% and other species 3.37%.  Livestock sector plays a critical role in the welfare of India’s rural population. It contributes nine per cent to the Gross Domestic Product and employs eight per cent of the labour force.  This sector is emerging as an important growth leverage of the Indian economy.  In recent years, livestock output has grown at the rate of about five per cent a year, higher than the growth in agricultural sector.  Major quantities of meat specifically buffalo meat are exported in overseas market. India has become the largest exporter of buffalo beef in the world overtaking Brazil and is the ninth-largest producer of poultry meat and fifth largest egg producer. The demand for poultry is growing at 7 to 8 per cent (ICRA report).  The poultry sector has been growing at around 8-10 per cent annually over the last decade with broiler meat volumes growing at more than 10 per cent. Mutton and chevon is relatively small but important segment where local demand is outstripping supply.  They have short generation interval and marketing is easier than other meats. The production levels in these two categories have been almost constant at 0.95 million tonnes with annual exports of less than 10,000 tonnes.

While our Indian domestic requirement for meat is increasing tremendously, we are all aware that the export potential is at the highest threshold. The importing countries and the consumers in general are conscious about the hazards, risks and safety of meat that are being imported or consumed. Most of the importing countries send their official Veterinary team for inspection of the abattoirs before approving the procurement of meat from such abattoirs. They specifically inspect the facilities available for hygienic and safe meat production. In this respect, ISO certification of the abattoirs on Food Safety Management System: 22000 of 2005 which is inclusive of HACCP is of considerable value. An integrated food safety system will include process control involving all facets of the food chain from production, processing, packing, storage, and transportation till its consumption. The facilities available in large majority of the domestic slaughter houses in India are obsolete, unscientific, unhygienic and inadequate. The slaughter and production of meat in such slaughterhouses results in highly contaminated, unsafe and poor quality meat. Absence of meat inspection in such slaughterhouses is a major nonconformity to the production of safe meat.

The international market is very choosy and demanding in respect of quality and safety of meat. The implementation of Food safety management systems would provide an edge for our Indian meat industry. In pursuit of excellence, food safety has taken a tangible form with the advent of HACCP & ISO: FSMS. It provides measures of an organization’s ability to consistently deliver safe products that meets the requirements of the consumers. It also envisages a framework for continuous improvement in food safety. The ISO 22000 implementation encompasses all aspects of “Farm to Fork” approach.

Livestock systems in developing countries are changing rapidly in response to a variety of drivers. Livestock products are an important agricultural commodity for global food security because they provide 17% of global kilocalorie consumption and 33% of global protein consumption (Rosegrant et al., 2009). The livestock sector accounts for 40% of the world’s agriculture gross domestic product (GDP). It employs 1.3 billion people and creates livelihoods for 1 billion of the population living in poverty. Climate change is seen as a major threat to the survival of many species and ecosystems, and the sustainability of livestock production systems in many parts of the world. There is a growing demand for livestock products, and its rapid growth in developing countries has been deemed the ‘‘livestock revolution” (Wright et al., 2012).

Increased ambient temperature is one of the most exacerbating attribute imposing severe consequences on livestock production (Sejian et al., 2017). Heat stressed animals reduces feed intake and water intake. This can alter the endocrine profile there by increasing the maintenance requirements which leads to reduced production performance of animals (Sejian et al., 2016). Industrialized farming systems are less affected by climate change than livestock systems based on grazing and the mixed farming systems (Nardone et al., 2010). Meat and milk production is found to be decreased more in the grazing based livestock systems and this could be attributed to less foraging of animals as they try to remain in the shade during hot weather condition (IPCC, 2013). Milk production was found to be reduced during heat stress and high producing animals are more affected than the low producing animals. Further, beef cattle with heavier hair coat and darker coat colour are very sensitive to heat stress. Heat stress affects the meat quality by increasing the pH of the meat and decreasing the Warner–Bratzler shear force and darker meat (Nardone et al., 2010). Heat stress greatly affects poultry industry through consequences on carcass weight, body weight, carcass protein, muscle calorie, drip loss, and shear force of breast muscle (Feng et al. 2008).

Among the various livestock species, piggery is most potential source of meat production and most efficient feed converters. They produce more live weight gain from a given quantity of feed than any other class of meat producing animals.  The pig can utilise vide variety of feed stuffs viz. damaged grains, swill, tankage and convert them into valuable nutritious meat. They are prolific with shorter generation interval. A sow can be bred as early as 8-9 months of age and can farrow twice in a year.  They produce 6-12 piglets in each farrowing.  Pig farming requires small investment and pigs are known for their meat yield, which in terms of dressing percentage ranges from 75-80 in comparison to other livestock species whose dressing yield may not exceed 65%.  Pork is nutritious with high fat and lower water content and has got better energy value than that of other meats.  It is rich in vitamins like thiamine, niacin, and riboflavin.  Pig farming provides quick returns since the marketable weight of fatteners can be achieved with in a period of 6-8 months. Pigs are easily integrated into small scale farming systems and can be fed with by-products from crops that are otherwise cannot be used by farmers.  Their manure can be used as fertilized as well as for energy production systems.  Pigs are potentially a viable, valuable and important diversification enterprise.


Indian Poultry industry is now showing rapid growth in terms of production of broiler meat and eggs. With no taboos and sentiments related to chicken, we have to give special thrust for this species for providing food security in our country. Consumers in general prefer chicken meat in their diet. One of the major concern regarding broiler meat processing is the disposal and treatment of poultry slaughter waste. Abattoir waste treatment is also another crucial concern which cause severe environmental pollution.  The only effective solution to this problem is the establishment of scientific processing plants and waste treatment Rendering plants.

For ensuring production of safe meat, the following basic aspects need to be implemented.

  • Implementation of Good Veterinary Practice(GVP) at the farm
  • Use of potable water and safe animal feeds
  • Good hygiene and sanitation
  • Transportation of animals without causing injury or harm to the animals
  • Inspection on arrival at the slaughterhouse
  • Provide rest for the animals (Lairaging) before slaughter
  • Ante-mortem inspection before slaughter
  • Develop a Food safety Policy & Food safety objectives
  • Develop a HACCP plan
  • Conduct Hazard Analysis
  • Determine the Critical Control Points(CCP’s)
  • Establish Critical Limits
  • Establish a system to monitor control of CCP’s
  • Establish the corrective action to be taken when CCP is not under control
  • Establish procedures for verification to confirm that HACCP system is working effectively
  • Establish documentation concerning all procedures and records
  • Adopt scientific slaughter operations “on the rail”:

(Securing animals in restrainers for stunning, Stunning / Halal slaughter, Use of Halal boxes, Bleeding on the rail, collection and treatment of blood, Transfer of carcass to dressing rail, Flaying, Evisceration, Post-mortem inspection, Splitting, washing, chilling , Conditioning of carcass in chillers for conversion of muscle to meat)Use of SS 304 grade for all meat contact materials, The slaughterhouse & meat processing areas should be fly proofed, Develop a system to ensure good hygienic practices by the workers, Develop vector control policy, All ingredients used for meat processing should be safe with regard to quality, residues of pesticides and heavy metals, All instruments used in meat processing, including thermometers, pressure gauges, should be calibrated and verified. All packing materials used should be of food grade.)

  • Traceability and Preparedness of the firm to withdraw their products in case of non-conformity in quality & food safety.
  • Compliance to all mandatory and regulatory requirements of State and Central governments

Food safety systems have to be implemented based on the risk assessment. Risks are a function of probability, severity of the adverse health effect and likelihood of occurrence due to hazards in food. Hazards are physical, biological, or chemical agents or condition with a potential to cause adverse health effects. Risk assessment is a scientific evaluation of adverse health effects resulting from food borne hazards in human population.

The Food safety management systems are in general, applicable to different industries, pertaining to the production of safe food. However, it is not dealing expressively on meat borne infections and intoxications or specifically on zoonotic diseases. The Auditors of such systems do not specifically understand the importance of veterinary meat inspection and its value in certifying the safety of the meat. Even while an abattoir is ISO certified, all developed countries insist on a Veterinary inspection and certification. The Food Safety Bill which is being implemented in India is silent on the Veterinary Inspection of meat. The risk is too high for human population in view of emerging diseases like Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, Nv Crutzfelt Jacobs disease, Avian influenza, Swine fever, Respiratory syndrome in swine, Foot &Mouth Disease, and various other meat-borne diseases like Anthrax, Tuberculosis, Brucellosis, Cysticercosis, sarcosporidiosis, and such other diseases. As such the safety of the meat can be ensured through veterinary meat inspection.

There had also been innumerable debate on the merits and demerits of meat consumption. Higher fat content in meat especially saturated fats had been correlated to cardiovascular diseases and to some extent in cancers. We all know that the fat content in Indian beef/buff is comparatively very low.  However, it is essential to highlight the health benefits of lean meat in protection and promotion of human health. Meat is a major source of n-3 PUFAs which can significantly reduce coronary heart disease. Researchers have successfully enhanced the content n-3 PUFAs in meat by modifying the dietary regimens of animals. Conjugated linoleic acid which is found in red meats have potential health benefits including anti-carcinogenic, anti-atherogenic, anti-diabetic and also enhances immune function and bone formation. Now it is known that the CLA can be enhanced by grass feeding. Grass feeding also reduces saturated fat levels in meat. Grass fed beef has more beta carotene, Vitamin E, and omega fatty acids. It may be of interest to know that grass fed hamburger meat sells for about One US Dollar more per pound, while steaks sell about 7 Dollars more than ordinary beef. We must take advantage of these developments in science and undertake researches to study the health benefits and promote the production of such meat in our country. A threefold increase of Vitamin E in meat can be achieved by grass feeding. Grass fed cattle has 60% more omega-3 fatty acids, which reduces inflammation, heart diseases and arthritis. Meat is a rich source of readily absorbable iron, Zinc, B vitamins, Vitamin D and many antioxidants. There had also been reports that lean red meat is useful in reducing the total and LDL cholesterol and increasing the HDL cholesterol.

The role of meat in causing cancer had also been in debate. However, there had been absolutely no proof in correlating meat and cancer. Several studies have been conducted in different countries, particularly in this regard, even the brain cancer treatment research. If meat consumption is related to colorectal cancer, there should have been a considerable reduction in the incidence if CRC in Britain on account of 25% reduction in consumption of beef. But on the contrary, during the same period, there had been a 50% increase in the incidence of CRC in Britain. If meat consumption is related to cancers, it is only logical that the incidence of cancer will be highest in countries where meat consumption is high. Mediterranean’s who consume largest quantities of red meat have very low incidence of cancer in their population. Studies have also proved that there is no difference in the incidence of cancer among vegetarians and non-vegetarians. It is pertinent to understand that the type of cooking has a major impact on developing carcinogens. Use of monosodium glutamate, artificial colours, nitrates and trans- fats has effects in developing carcinogens. Such materials are being widely used in hotels and restaurants for preparation of non-vegetarian as well as vegetarian dishes. Safety of ready to eat/ ready to cook meat products depends on the use of such ingredients in their preparations.

A rational judgment has to be made by the meat industry concerning the potential hazards and the risk assessment. Meat and its products being a biological material are amenable to degradation and contamination. Meat hazards, as already stated could be physical, chemical or biological. Biological hazards can exist while a diseased animal is sacrificed or due to toxic substances produced by micro-organisms in the body of the animal, or during the preparation of the product. Data on the meat-borne diseases or zoonotic diseases can be collected from the abattoirs and meat processing plants. It is essential to evaluate the severity of the risk and to identify the hazards in our pursuit to produce safe meat. It is the basic responsibility of the manufacturer to ensure the safety of the products that are released to the market.

An effective Food safety management system combined with veterinary meat inspection has to be implemented in abattoirs and meat processing plants with a “Farm to Fork” approach. Every step in the process flow is important to safeguard the health and interest of the consumer. For the growing population of our country, the only ray of hope in ensuring food security and nutritional security is the Livestock sector. However, the fact remains to be understood by the policy makers and planners and visionary projects needs to be implemented to achieve the goal.