Agricultural Production Function Analysis

Agricultural production is the process of transforming agricultural resources into a form that will give us maximum satisfaction. Agricultural production decisions are, in effect decision making in the allocation of scarce resources. These resources are scarce and, therefore a choice has to be made in their use with the ultimate objectives may be profit maximization, output maximization, cost minimization, or the maximization of satisfaction or the combination of these motives of enterprise.

The production function stipulates the technical relationship between input and output in any production scheme or process. In mathematical terms, this function is assumed to be continuous and differentiable. Its differentiability enables us to establish the rates of return.


One of the production decisions farmers have to make is the decision on how much of the commodity to produce. This decision brings us to the production function. The production function is a technical relationship between resource (factor) inputs and production (commodity) output. The relationship shows that total output depends on the quality and quantity of the inputs used in the production process. It is a technical relationship in the sense that technical units are involved in the production process. They may be a piece of land, number of animals to which variable inputs are introduced or added to produce a given level of output. There are three ways of expressing a production function.

(1)       It can be expressed arithmetically by means of tables

(2)       It can be expressed graphically by means of two-dimensional graphs

(3)      It can be expressed algebraically by means of nations.

Table 1:Arithmetic Representation of Production Function

No of animals

Variable factor (Labour in Man hrs) (II)
Total Production Live weight of Animals (kg)

Average Production Live weight (kg) (IV)
Marginal Product (kg) (V)
500 cattle
















The second and third columns whose values are given represents the production function. The values in the forth column are derived by dividing total product by the corresponding labour values, while the marginal products are the differences between successive total products.

Graphical Expression of the Production Function

If the second and third columns are shown on a graph, the result would be the factor product pair, a relationship.


Factor input (Labour on Mondays)

Algebraic Expression of the Production Function

In the implicit function, x is the independent or the explanatory variable while Y is the dependent or the explained variable. This is expressed as Y = f(x). However, the product output is not dependent upon only one factor. Hence an algebraic expression is more accurately represented as Y = f(x1, x2, x3….xn). If we put a bar between x1 and X2, X3….Xn; it shows that X1 is variable while the other factors are assumed constant or fixed. For simplicity, the general formula, for explicit function is Y = a + bx, where a = constant, and b = elasticity of response of Y to a unit change in X. a is the value of Y when there is no change in X and it is 25. b is the coefficient of elasticity, and it is 4 by substitution, which is also the slope of the line.


Explicit Production function (unsubstituted)  (substituted)

This mean that for every one unit change in X, Y changes by b, it is important to know that both input and output must be homogenous. Production and resource relationships are meaningful if they refer to input and output that are homogenous. If, for e.g. the initial input of labour refers to the labour of an adult and the additional input of labour refers to that of a child, it does not make any meaning because, it will be difficult to refer to the amount of labour used. To be meaningful, the additional amount of labour employed must be that of an adult as this will enable us make assumption about their output. Similarly, the output must refer to the same type of product.


In the production process, some factors are held constant while others are varied in amount and stages. A production function in which one or more resources are fixed in amount is termed SHORT-RUN production function.  A production function which involves variation in input of all factors is termed LONG RUN production function.

(a) Production Function and Productivity Returns to a Single Variable Input:    Aproduction function can indicate any of the following three forms of productivity to thevariable factor (1)  constant returns to the variable factors  (2)  increasing returns to thevariable factor (3) decreasing returns to the variable factor.

Constant returns to a variable factor hold true if all units to the variable factor which are applied to the fixed factor result in equal additions to the total product i.e. when the marginal physical product is constant.

Table 2:Production Function indicating Constant returns to a Variable Factors

Variable factor Labour (man hrs)
Total Product (tonnes)
Marginal Physical Product (Tonnes)









Increasing returns to a variable input occurs when each additional unit of input adds more to the total product than the previous unit.

Production function indicating increasing return to a variable factor (convex to the X-axis.)

Decreasing resource productivity occurs when each additional unit of input adds less to the total product than the previous units.



Table 3: Comprehensive Production function and Productivity Return to Scale

Fixed Input (land)
Variable Input (man hours)
Unit of Total Production (Tonnes)
Unit of Av. Production (Tonnes)
Unit of Marginal Production (Tonnes




















Fig: Comprehensive Production Function Curve

There are increasing returns upto and including the 3rd input. It means that the total product increases progressively at an increasing rate. This part of the curve is convex to the X-axis. From the third input through to the seventh input, diminishing returns set in. Although the total product is increasing, it does so at a diminishing rate and this part of the curve is concave to x-axis. Any further application of the inputs of the variable factor beyond the seventh unit of input to the fixed factor, land, decreases the total product. This means that a negative output resells from inputs beyond the seventh unit.

These three stages are called the irrational, rational and irrational stages respectively. The stages of increasing and decreasing returns are the stages of irrational production, while the stage of diminishing returns is the stage of rational production.


Another type of production decision farmers have to make is the decision on what method of production to use. This involves factor-factor relationship and factor substitution. Substitution of one factor for another factor is the production process is a familiar practice among farmers. Some farmers produce beef by using a little quantity of maize and pasture, while others use more maize and a little quality of pasture. Milk can be produced entirely by hand labour or by means of a milking machine with little hand labour, pigs can be reared with feed concentrates or with carbohydrate such as cassava.

Suppose a livestock farmer has two variable factors, hay and maize and fixed factor cow. And suppose he has to produce 100kg of milk. He can combine these two variable factors in a number of ways to produce the same output of 100kg of milk. He can combine these two variable factors in a number of ways to produce the same output of 100kg of milk. Assuming six different ways were combined to produce the same output of 100kg of milk and plotted on a graph, we shall get a contour line or an iso-line. Such a contour line is called iso-curve or equal product curve or iso-quant. An equal product curve is a curve which indicates all possible combinations of two variable inputs yielding the same level of output. With an increase in the quantity of the variable input, there will be higher level of output resulting to a series of iso-quants. If either hay or maize or both are increased, there will be an increase in milk production and consequently, there will be several iso-quants or equal product curves higher and higher on the production surface each representing a higher level of production (output).

Line AB is the iso-cost curve. With the factor-factor price ratio of Px/Py, the slope of the line is 2.

Iso-cost curve showing different levels of cost constraints


The major objective for resource combination and cost minimization is to combine factors in such a way as to obtain maximum output or to minimize the cost of producing a given output. In order to decide upon the best possible resource combination to achieve maximum output at a given cost or to minimize the cost of producing a given output, a choice indicator is necessary. The choice indicator in this case is the factor-factor price ratio, i.e. ratio of price of one factor to the price of the other. Given two factors, X and Y, prices at N20 and respectively, and the limited sum of N20 to spend on these two factors in order to produce 100kg of rice.

To know the point of resource combination and cost minimization, an iso-cost line can be constructed to represent this outlay of N20. The slope of the iso-cost curve represent this outlay of N20, The slope of the iso-cost curve represents the factor-factor price ratio.
Iso-cost curve showing different levels of cost constraints.

The line AB is also called the price line or budget line, the reason being that it limits the producer from AB line to A1B1 i.e. to the right of the line. The line AB indicates that at factor prices of N10 for each unit of factor Y and £420 for each unit of factor X, the producer can, with N20, however either buy 20 units of factor Y and none factor x or the other way round or both.

If the money available to the producer increases, there will be a shift to the right of the iso-cost curve in parallel fashion to the original curve. An iso-cost curve is, therefore, a curve that shows the possible combinations of two variable factors which can be purchased with a given amount of money. In order to know the least cost of producing ‘a given output, we must know the prices of the factors used and the marginal rate of substitution within them. If there are X and Y factors, price at Px and Py respectively, the principle of cost minimization states that the cost of producing a given output with two variable factors will be at minimum when the ratio of factor prices is equal to the marginal rate of substitution between the factors i.e. when Px/Py = dy/dx. If Px/Py is less than the substitution ratio, dy/dx, cost will be minimal by using more of factor x and less of factor Y.


In factor-factor relationship, output of product is held constant, it only changes when we change the factors. In this case, resource combination can vary. In product-product relationship resources are held constant in quantity and variety while products can vary.

An iso-resource curve, therefore, is a curve which shows all possible combinations of products which can be produced with the same collection of resources.


In this hypothetical e.g., only two products were considered, but the conclusions are readily extended to any number of alternative products. The maximum-profit combination of maize and groundnut was found where the marginal value product of labour was the same in each product. Hence, if there is a third product, the maximum profit will occur where labour use is so adjusted that the marginal value product is equal in each of the three products.

Similarly, the equi-marginal return principle can be applied to any number of products. This is the general solution to the product-product problem.

However, we have so far been considering a rather unrealistic case, where only the labour resource may be allocated between products. It has been assumed that other resource inputs are specific to individual products and are fixed. This fixity of other resources led to diminishing returns as more labour was applied to either of the two products and hence caused the concave production possibility curve. This in turn meant that the maximum profit system involved both products.

In practice, most resources can be allocated to any of several products. Not only labour is allocated in this way, but also land, managerial inputs and many items of capital such as tools and machinery. In fact, there may be no fixed resources which are specific to individual products. In that case, as more resources are concentrated in one product, returns to scale may be obtained. If there are decreasing returns to scale in each, it is still likely that the production possibility curves will be concave and a diversified system will be the most profitable. Each resource should then be allocated so that its marginal value product is the same in each product. If, however, there are constant or increasing returns to scale in a particular product, specialization on the product might yield the highest return for a given quantity of resources.


If, for e.g there are increasing returns to scale in groundnut production, then any transfer of resources into other products will cause a greater relative decline in the quantity of groundnut produced. If one-tenth of the resources used in groundnut production are transferred to maize production, the total quantity of groundnut produced would fall by more than one-tenth.

In such a case, the production possibility curve could be a straight line or even a curve which is convex to the origin. The convex line implies that as more groundnut are produced, the advantages of increased scale are so great that the sacrifices of maize output per additional kg of groundnut becomes smaller and smaller. At no stage are the two products complementary or supplementary to each other.


Supplementary products do not compete for certain resources either because they use different types of resources or because they sue the same resources but at different times and in different ways. Even where there are constant or increasing returns to scale in two products, they may still be supplementary. For instance, maize grown during the early rains and groundnut grown during the late rains are supplementary products. They hardly compete for any resources sincere they are grown at different times of the year. Where products are supplementary, it will usually be more profitable to produce rather than one alone. In this way, the fixed costs of the resources used will be spread over a larger total output. The introduction of supplementary products is an important method of supplementing farm income, thereby increasing productivity of resources. Hence, supplementary relationship should always be borne in mind in farm planning.

To some extent, livestock may be supplementary to crops in the use of land. For e.g., cattle grazed between the rows of an oil palm plantation are supplementary to oil palm in the use of land. Complementary relationship are less important in practice but are generally found where the products of one product are used in the production of another product. This is sometimes known as a ‘vertical relationship between products. Where there is a vertical relationship between products, the expansion of one may permit the expansion of the other. E.g. cowpea and other crops.

However, no two products are ever complementary over all possible combinations of the two. The complementary relationship always gives way to competition. Again this argument will apply where many products are considered. So long as there are supplementary or complementary relationship and increasing rates of transformation, a combination of products will be more profitable than a single specialized product.



Meat is defined as the flesh of animals which are suitable for use as food (Forrest et alt 1975). This includes all processed or manufactured products which might be prepared from these tissues. Nigerians depend mainly on domestic animals and aquatic organisms and to some extent on game animals and birds. This is true of the urban as well as the rural communities. Game animals, the major source of meat to the villagers, is now cherished by the wealthy inhabitants in the cities. Frozen fish, popularly referred to as ‘Mortuary’ now serves as a major source of protein supply to both urban and rural dwellers, Meat as defined can be subdivided into four : broad categories.

The largest category, in terms of volume of consumption, is ‘red’ meat, so called because meat in this category is darkly pigmented. Beef, goat, lamb or mutton and pork are the most common ‘red’ meats. However, horse, camel, ass and dog meats are used for human consumption in some parts of Nigeria.

Poultry meat is the flesh of domestic birds, and includes meat from chicken, turkeys, duck, geese, pheasants and guinea fowl. These are referred to as ‘white’ or lightly pigmented meat. Sea foods such as fish, lobsters, oysters, crabs and the flesh of other aquatic organisms constitute an important source of protein supply. A fourth category is the flesh of non-domesticated (i.e. wild) animals. Also important, though often forgotten, is the flesh of the lesser known sources of meat protein and includes tortoises, turtles, lizards, snakes and other reptiles, snails, grasshoppers, termites, beetles, insect larvae, crickets, and low flying birds (Umoh and Bassir, 1977).


The preferential consumption of different types of meat by communities may be due to a combination of a number of factors bordering on religious belief, culture, adaptability, food habits, age, sex, socio-economic factor arid individual variation in Nigeria; for instance, as a result of religious belief, pork is unpopular in the predominantly Moslem northern part of Nigeria. Obariu (1975) reported that goat meat is most popular among the Igbos of East Central State of Nigeria. The order of preference of meat as reported was as follows: goat meat, chicken, beef, mutton, bush or gaine, meat, pork, guinea fowls, snails (Congo meat), water fowl and dog meat. The special importance of goats as well as chicken may lie in their economic size which makes them accessible to the average income-earning Nigerian. Obanu (1975) also reported that the Igbos show definite preferential discrimination for meat from various parts of the carcass, the order being as follows: (a) chest, (b) hind leg, (c) spine (d) abdomen, (e) loin, (f) front leg, (g) neck and (h) head. The high popularity of the chest and the spine seems associated with its soft bones which enhance the ‘chewability’ of the meat, while any high regard for the head and neck stems mainly from the social values accorded by the people’s culture.

Despite differences in acceptability, cow meat appears to predominate all over Nigeria. Sheep, goat and poultry meat are widely accepted.


In Nigeria, as in other countries of the world, the consumption of meat is an indication of social and economic class. Hence the demand for protein of animal origin is higher in the cities than hi the villages because of differences in income, level of education and availability. As the economy of a nation improves its meat consumption increases.

Meat is one of the most nutritious foods used for human consumption. It is an excellent source of high quality protein and it also contains large amounts of minerals and essential vitamins, as well as fats and carbohydrate for energy. Meat is usually an expensive item in the Nigerian diet. However, a very small quantity of meat can greatly improve a meal as the protein will supplement the vegetable protein and a balanced meal will thus be provided.

Livestock accounted for at least 5% of the estimated N36.078 billion GDP in 1980 and in 1981 and 1985 the projected contribution of the livestock sub-sector to GDP was N2.0 billion or 25.6% of agriculture and N2.5 billion or 27.4% of agriculture respectively. Even though the contributions of the agricultural sector has grown numerically the progress made so far is not encouraging and in reality shows a downward trend. This stems from the fact that national budgetary allocations to agriculture has not improved over the years. Furthermore, within agriculture the livestock sub-sector has received the smallest allocations. In the second National Development Plan (1960-74) out of a total planned expenditure of N2.05 billion, agriculture received only N265.3 million or 12.94% out of which livestock received only N23.3 million or 8,8% of the agricultural allocation. In the third National Development Plan (1975-80) agriculture received N2.2 billion or 6.7% of planned expenditure while the livestock sub-sector received N344 million or 15.6% of the agricultural allocation, representing 1.05% of the total planned expenditure. Thus the livestock sub-sector and agriculture as a whole has not received adequate attention in spite of its recognized role in the economy of the country. Consequently, Nigeria imports a large amount of meat annually and on the other hand exports virtually nothing to other countries. In 1982, Nigeria imported 74,9, 4.6, 4.6 and 15.0 thousand tons of pork, lamb, goat meat and poultry respectively and exported nothing (FAO, 1985). Nigeria, by implication, is therefore dependent on other countries for meat supply and this dependency syndrome continually drains the country’s foreign exchange reserve. Paradoxically, more economic losses are incurred daily due to the disposal and neglect of animal by-products.

In the United States of America, the meat industry is the third largest, next to steel and the automobiles (Levie, 1970). On the contrary, a country as big as Nigeria cannot as of today boast of a single, productive, efficiently-run meat processing factory. The meat industry thus cannot serve as a major source of employment for the graduates in Animal Sciences and related fields. A greater proportion of these trained professionals teach in secondary schools. It is important that the government pays more attention to the meat industry.



The problems facing the Nigerian meat industry include socio-cultural, finance, nutrition, management, disease and pest, and low genetic potential of local meat animals in Nigeria.


The major herd owners in the country are the pastoral Fulanis. These rearers migrate from one part of the country to another in search of green pastures. The greatest problems facing these individuals are those of seasonal variation in forage availability, water and disease. With this system of livestock production it is difficult to adopt modern livestock production practices. Cattle in the national herd grow slowly. Steers reach mature weight between 4 to 7 years of age compared with the European cattle which reach mature weights at 1.5 to 2.5 years. The age at first calving for the national herd is between 4 and 6 years and the annual calf crop varies between 40 and 60%. Thus the annual rate of growth of the cattle population is far below the estimated world average of 2.6% (Oyenuga, 1966). The consequences of the traditional method is that the rate of production of meat is grossly below the demand.


Livestock production is capital intensive and if progress has to be made in the Nigerian livestock industry, the traditional system has to be discouraged. However, finance is a major constraint to the modern livestock farmers. Money is needed to purchase improved stock (cattle, sheep, goats, etc.) as well as feeds, and other farm equipment.


High genetic potential expressed in terms of productivity cannot be achieved if nutrition is inadequate. The unavailability and resultant high cost of grains and other feed components has affected the performance of meat animals in Nigeria. The production of grains must be intensified if the livestock industry must survive. Genetic Make-up of Local Animals

Low productivity of the local animals has also been attributed to their low genetic potential. There is need to improve our local breeds through cross-breeding programmes.

Disease and Pest and Banditry

The problem of livestock diseases and pest cannot be overemphasised. Nigeria had in the past lost millions of Naira through deaths of disease-stricken cattle, goats, sheep and poultry. Fulani herdsmen in Nigeria have in recent past suffered emotional stress and financial losses due to cattle banditry. Heads of cattle are reported stolen by bandits, who at times kill the herdsmen. The constant menacing attacks by bandits have often led to mass evacuation of cattle by the Fulani herdsmen; resulting often in a shift of their base to other countries like Cameroons. Other problems encountered by the herdsmen include indiscriminate burning of bushes, and unnecessary demand of cattle and community tax payment from the cattle rearers. The question then is – what can we do to improve the situation of the Nigerian meat industry? Since over 90% of cattle, sheep and goat are controlled by traditional livestock rearers, the government has to pay more attention to their needs. The pastoral Fulanis need education and incentives that will encourage their settling in approved areas. A lot could be achieved through the establishment of private livestock enterprises. There is an urgent need for the development of grazing reserves and provision of loans for farm inputs. To help alleviate the perennial nutritional problems efforts should be made to establish improved pastures for ruminants and more importantly increase arable crop production in order to have enough for the populace, animals as well, as agro-based industries. Integration of animal and crop production for efficient land utilization is considered more favourable to the farmers. By raising crops and livestock, the farmers earnings are assured. Livestock do utilize farm roughage as feeds. It is estimated that 80% of beef, 95% of lamb, and 75% of dairy products in United States of America are produced from roughage, (i.e., pasture, hay, corn silage, etc.) which human beings cannot eat.

Research directed towards improved feeding and breeding of livestock is important. Animal nutrition experts have advised that adoption of supplemental feeding of animals will help in raising the productivity of livestock particularly ruminant animals. It has been estimated that 15.5 million tonnes of maize and 5.6 tonnes of groundnut cake will be required to feed Nigeria’s estimated cattle herd of 12.13 million (Mba, 1983).

Similar estimates for sheep, goats, pigs and poultry showed that the total quantities of maize and groundnut cake that will be required by these classes of livestock are 25.5 and 9.9 million tonnes respectively. Also pigs and poultry require 0.427 million tonnes of fish meal

Mba (1983) suggested that cotton-seed and palm kernel cakes could replace some of the groundnut cake in the rations for pigs and poultry and some or all in the rations for the ruminants. Similarly guinea corn could replace some or all of the maize in the rations for livestock.

There is need to reactivate and expand our livestock investigation and breeding centres. Many of the centres have remained dormant. The government should promote the production from trypano-tolerant stock. Efforts should therefore be made to identify and remove disease and nutritional constraints hampering livestock production.

Above all, promotion of increased production of sheep, goats and pork should be encouraged. Sheep and goats have been neglected in the past livestock production programmes. They are generally regarded as poor feed converters and in the rural areas live on kitchen wastes and bush grazing. This should not be the situation in a country that is striving for ‘self-sufficiency’ in food, including animal protein. Efforts should be geared towards increased production from sheep and goats especially since the long generation interval observed with cattle does not apply to this group of animals. Goats could reach mature weight in about 18 months and age at first kidding may range from 16-25 months (Mba, 1983).

Finally, Nigeria should not relent efforts in the already existing development programmes: viz. manpower development (veterinarians and animal scientists), training of farmers and children of1 livestock owners, creation of grazing reserves, promotion of production of Trypano-tolerant stock, increased production from sheep and goats, improved pork production, promotion of: poultry production, animal feed milling plants, fattening schemes, dry season supplemental feeding, dairy production and processing, livestock investigation and breeding centres, improved slaughtering facilities, and intensified research into disease control. These are some of the programmes that have been embarked on at one time or the other and should not be abandoned.




In most societies meat has a special position as a major source of protein and as a highly preferred food. In Nigeria, the animal-protein intake is grossly inadequate. According to an FAO (1965) report animal protein contributed 6.5g of an estimated 53.4g daily per capita protein intake. This figure is far below the 34 g/person/day or 40% of an average 85.9 g/day of total protein in developed countries of the world. It is therefore very clear that protein of animal origin is in short supply. Nigeria had an estimated livestock population in 1981, of 9,3 million cattle, 8.8 million sheep, 20.8 million goats, 135.5 million poultry and 0.86 million pigs. Over 90% of Nigerian livestock, especially cattle, goats and sheep, are in traditional herds cherished by their owners, mostly Fulanis, more as symbols of status than as meat animals. They are culled reluctantly when ill-health, age of the animal or necessity, especially finance, forces that owner to get rid of them. Such animals are therefore not culled or sold at a stage of prime quality and high meat yield. Limited data support that around 75% of the national cattle herds is concentrated in the north, specifically in Borno, Bauchi, Kano, Gongola, Katsina and Sokoto States. Generally, yield per animal unit, is very low, since the animals subsist on savanna lands, providing during the wet season of 4 – 5 months, coarse herbage of marginal nutritive value. They virtually starve during the 7-8 months of the year (Marquis, 1985), To worsen the situation, thejiigh concentration of livestock in the north far from the high meat-consumption centres in the southern states necessitates long-range transportation with its Inherent adverse effects on the animals and their meat. Surviving animals arrive southern markets sick, weak and emaciated. The pastoral Fulani, the focus of the system is the main component of production. His greatest problems are those of seasonal variation in forage availability, water, disease, social interactions with arable crop farmers, and the need to cater for his family.

The status of wildlife in Nigeria can be evaluated by looking at the development of the game reserves in the country. The number of game reserves increased from 10 in 1969 to 32 in 1985. This shows a tremendous growth in the total number of game reserves.. However, the apparently greater awareness in government circles of the importance of wildlife has not resulted in an increase in supply of protein from wildlife. On the other hand a decline in wildlife population due to indiscriminate and unregulated hunting for meat has been reported (Ajayi and Tewe, 1985).

Marketing of Meat

Meat is marketed fresh, chilled or frozen. The bulk of our meat in Nigeria is sold immediately after slaughter and dressing in our familiar open markets. The retailing of meat is a highly specialized business and butchers form a very distinct professional group. The markets are often over-crowded as space is limited. The display of meat for sale requires no packaging, no counters or shelves or any other measures to reduce contamination. Rather, the meat is left simply on the table and exposed to the intense sunshine, high temperatures and high humidities of the tropics which greatly accelerate microbial, chemical and physical deterioration of the meat (Obanu, 1980; 1986), Agricultural development, like economic development in general, must be based on division of labour into specialized functions, land the growth of the market economy reflects this specialization. As [economic development creates higher incomes, consumers look for different foods and make their purchases in different ways. Where animal products are concerned, there is a demand for a better selection of types and qualities, and more attention is paid to cleanliness and preparation. Consumers become increasingly prepared to pay for improvements and better quality products and so it becomes profitable for the marketing enterprises to provide them. In addition, higher incomes also allow for more varied diets, and so the meat marketing system is enlarged to provide a wider range of meat and meat products.


Fenn (1977) gave a detailed description of various aspects of livestock and meat marketing channels and these are applicable to various countries, including Nigeria.


In practice there is no clear line between production and marketing, and the producer himself is involved to a lesser or greater extent in the marketing process. Indeed, an important feature of livestock industry development is the increased involvement of the producer in the marketing process and a more careful planning of his output to suit market needs.

In many parts of the world, livestock owners still have little concern for the marketing of their stock. For example, nomadic or herdsmen in the drier parts of Africa still raise cattle, sheep and goats primarily for their own subsistence. Their way of life is precarious and their main concern is maintaining the herds which provide their sustenance, rather than obtaining an increase in their income. When they need cash they are likely to sell the animals that can be most easily spared from the herd, without any special preparation for market. In other parts of the world, the livestock population consists largely of buffaloes and cattle that are kept mainly as milk producers or draught animals on small farms. Here too, marketing is a secondary consideration, since the owners are interested in having milk cows or working animals rather than beef producers.

As long as livestock farmers do not consciously produce for market, the marketing system, like primary production, will remain relatively underdeveloped. The assembly of a scattered and haphazard output of livestock of various types and qualities is inevitably expensive. On the other hand, once producers are able to adapt their output to suit market needs, the organization of marketing can be correspondingly improved. Much therefore depends on the producer’s capacity to concentrate on the more suitable types and breeds of stock, to achieve more uniform quality through proper feeding, and to programme his output to suit market requirements. This does not necessarily imply large-scale production, but it often requires information and advisory services to guide the producer’s efforts toward what the market needs. A characteristic of the most successful meat marketing programmes (e.g. those for Danish bacon and for New Zealand lamb) has been the accurate responses of producers to current market requirements.

The fanner should not only be alert to market needs, but should also have a reliable linkage to the main marketing channels. The weakness of the; small agricultural producer in relation to the traders who buy his produce is a familiar therne. Much has been written on the need for small farmers to build up some ‘countervailing power’ in marketing. One method is the formation of producers’ cooperatives with the basic aim of increasing bargaining power through the better organization of market deliveries. Such marketing organizations are discussed at the end of this section.

Another method is some form of special association between producers and an established buyer. Arrangements of this kind exist even in traditional livestock producing systems and are commonly based on credit advances which the buyer makes to the producer. Such arrangements can be highly undesirable if they allow the trader-financier to control and exploit the producer, but under fair terms the association can be advantageous to both parties, as it provides the farmer with production credit and assures him of a market at the required time.

Contract agreements between livestock producers and buyers vary considerably. Such agreements usually cover quantities and delivery schedules, but because of market uncertainties they cannot give long-term assurance on prices unless a government authority is involved. Contract arrangements are more easily devised for pig production than for cattle production, largely because pig production can be more quickly adjusted to demand. Even so, livestock farming under contract has made only limited progress, even in North America and Europe. In most circumstances buyers and; sellers prefer to retain their freedom of action.

When the producer cannot establish special arrangements with a regular buyer, perhaps because his output is insufficient, it is advantageous for him to Have direct access to a marketplace where there are alternative buyers and where he can obtain information on prices and prospects. The producer what must wait at his farm for a buyer to call on him is in a weak position. If op can take his stock directly to an organized market, he can eliminate the [function of the itinerant buyers and sell on better terms. The existence of country livestock markets and feeder roads, and perhaps the producer’s possession of his own means of transport, are decisive factors in this matter.


Basically, a market is a place where buyers and sellers meet to trade. In developing countries many country livestock markets are literally no more than that and are sited on a patch of open ground with no installations at all. A perimeter fence may be built to confine the animals if convenience justifies the expense under local conditions. Pens may also be provided, especially where pigs and other small stock are concerned, and there may be a watering-point, shelter for men and animals, loading ramps, weighing equipment and various other amenities.

In most cases, such market-places are owned and controlled by the local public authority. In theory, the capital costs of the market installations and any current costs of running the market, such as water supplies, maintenance and supervision, are usually recovered by a small charge on the animals that enter the market area. In practice, these charges are often out of proportion to the services provided to the market users, or to the expenses incurred by the market authority.

In most parts of Pakistan, the right to manage the local livestock market is let annually by tender to a contractor who pays a lump sum to the local authority. He is then entitled to collect market fees at officially agreed rates, usually between 1 and 3% of the price of the stock sold. It is not surprising that under this system the collection of fees takes priority over the provision of services and amenities to market users.

The practice of using markets as a convenient point for levying a revenue-raising tax can only be detrimental to the marketing system. The tax is an extra marketing cost in any case, and if producers or traders are taxed or harassed in any way when they arrive to do business, some will stop doing their business there. In the interest of marketing efficiency, market charges should be no higher than what is necessary to cover the cost of the services provided.

Moreover, the services and installations provided at the market should conform to the real needs and wishes of the users and not to some pre-conceived model.

For the producer, the well-run market is a place where he can take or send his livestock and be certain of offers. For a trader, it is a place where he can conveniently buy the stock he requires in a short space of time without having to canvass a number of scattered producers. The essential function of the market is thus to bring together substantial numbers of sellers and buyers to trade under convenient conditions at a pre-arranged time and place. If there are any official controls over prices, qualities, or terms of sale, they can be more easily exercised at such a centre. If the markets is free, prices tend to reflect the overall supply and demand situation rather than the relative bargaining powers of two individuals.

However, this implies not only rapid diffusion of current trading price information throughout the market, but also the participation of substantial numbers of buyers and sellers. If only two or three traders are buying, there is a risk of collusion between them to keep prices down. It is difficult to promote successful country markets in areas where livestock production is extensive and traders few. In some parts of the world, annual livestock fairs, which attract people from a wide area, have traditionally provided a sales outlet for communities that have no regular local market.


The number of traders in the marketing channel and the scope of their individual operations depend largely on the stage of economic development in the area concerned, and hence on the ease or difficulty of increasing the: scale of operations. Complaints about ‘excessive numbers of small traders and middlemen’ or ‘too many stages’ in the trading of livestock are; not uncommon. The implication is that the removal of most of these small traders would allow larger and more efficient enterprises to undertake the marketing more cheaply. But in practice it is not so much the mere exigence of large numbers of competitors that limits the progress of the more efficient traders, but rather the difficulties of organizing on a larger scale the particular kind of operations involved.

This is most apparent in the primary marketing of animals in areas where small producers keep stock in traditional ways. A trader may have to visit each producer, often in a remote place, negotiate at length for one or two animals, and then arrange collection over difficult routes. He cannot easily delegate his buying operations to employees and so, even if he had the skill, the capital and the ambition; the scale of his operations as a primary livestock buyer is likely to be rather limited. Moreover, since he must personally concentrate on his buying at producer level, he may not be able to organize transport or stock driving outside his own locality. So he must hand over to another trader who specializes in moving livestock to a distant centre for concentration, and who in turn will sell to a larger trader at the next stage of the marketing channel.

So long as marketing must begin with the buying and collection of stock in small numbers from scattered points and under difficult conditions, it will be difficult to improve on specialized, small-scale operations under each trader’s direct personal control. Cooperative marketing may be an improvement if the producers are willing and able to maintain a good organization. Otherwise, it is difficult for any large-scale enterprise, either private or public, to provide an adequate buying and collecting service at acceptable cost.

The local traders may also carry out other functions of practical importance. They may combine their livestock business economically with trading in other commodities, especially farm crops or consumer goods. In less developed areas, this complementary function of distributing foodstuffs and other consumer goods may be of great significance. In some parts of Africa producers are still interested in obtaining direct supplies of grain, tea or other consumer goods rather than a simple cash payment. In other circumstances, traders may associate their purchases of slaughter-stock with supplies of dairy heifers or young stock required by local formers. Then-functions in providing credit may also be important. These combinations of business functions naturally allow the traders to operate on lower cost margins, giving them an added advantage over any larger organization operating only for livestock buying.

In an old-fashioned and fragmented marketing system, traders may be in a position to take far too large a margin for their services. This could happen when a local trader deals with producers who have insufficient knowledge of market prices and a limited choice of buyers. It could also happen at the wholesale stage of marketing where large-scale operations are possible and a few important traders may control the market and form a ‘ring’, A trader who is in a strong financial position may be able to ‘tie up’ prospective suppliers by advancing credit against future sales and then heavily discounting the buying price.

This danger exists in relations between local traders and producers, and also at the later stages of marketing where a dominant and wealthy wholesaler may finance either his trader suppliers or his butcher customers.

Excess profit-taking is less of a risk if there is relatively free entry to the trade and if dealing is largely done on open markets so that current prices are better known.


In the typical traditional marketing channel, meat passes from the abattoir directly to the central meat market. This is the point at which the retail butchers meet the wholesale suppliers in order to select their meat supplies in the form of carcasses, quarters or cuts. Of course, wholesale butchers and wholesale meat markets have no role in places where retail butchers purchase live animals direct from a livestock producer or trader and make their own arrangements for slaughtering and dressing. Hence wholesale meat markets are usually associated with important abattoirs serving major consumer markets, and their very existence implies that there is a considerable degree of organization in the marketing system.

In many developing countries, the wholesale sector in the livestock and meat marketing system is still not well developed and, even in some large cities, retail butchers still buy their own slaughter stock, or purchase carcasses or parts of carcasses from another butcher with whom they have a direct association. However, there does seem to be a trend (in the cities of the Near East, for example) for retail butchers to purchase their supplies increasingly in the form of meat -because it is no longer convenient for them to go out and buy their own livestock and arrange for slaughter.

The growing quantities of meat consumed in the cities necessarily involve the collection of livestock from wider areas. At the same time, an increasing part of total supplies is imported, as in Cairo. Tehran and Tripoli. In such circumstances, the procurement and slaughter of livestock and the sale of the carcasses, or the handling and sale of meat imports, are becoming the concern of specialized wholesalers, which may be either private businesses or special public bodies established by governments. Changes in this direction may be hastened where old-fashioned public slaughter-houses are replaced by modern industrial abattoirs so that retail butchers lose the possibility of slaughtering and dressing their animals as they did previously. The operations of the industrial abattoirs are normally adapted to the needs of larger clients rather than numerous small ones. All this suggests that in many cities wholesale meat markets may become more important as a convenient source of supplies for retailers, giving them the opportunity to select exactly what they want, and helping to balance supply and demand from day to day.

On the other hand, in Western European countries the most up-to-date marketing arrangements are to some extent bypassing the wholesale meat markets and supplying increasing quantities of meat direct from slaughterers and packers to the retailing organizations. This is associated with the growth in the size of retail outlets, especially supermarket chains, and their closer association with the packers who can meet their requirements directly. Such direct supply is advantageous if large standardized orders are involved; physical movement and handling of meat are thus reduced and it is easier to keep the cold chain unbroken and maintain quality standards.

However, these factors have less relevance in the developing countries, where most retailing is done by small enterprises and there is not the same scope for contract links or integration with suppliers. It is therefore likely that the conventional type of wholesale meat market will continue to play a central role in meat distribution in large cities in the years ahead, and that new investments in modern and hygienic layouts will be justified in many places. Since meat is a highly perishable high-value commodity, market premises must be properly equipped and cooled and efficiently managed, especially in tropical countries where climatic conditions accelerate the process of decomposition. As with abattoirs, planning and standards of management must meet the requirements of both marketing efficiency and public health.



By tradition, the retailing of meat is a highly specialized business and butchers form a very distinct professional group. In some countries they are; almost a caste, dressing in a special way, recognizing a head butcher an4 controlling their businesses through a tight system of apprenticeships and: inheritance. These features are especially noticeable in Muslim countries and are doubtless attributable to the religious and ritual connotations of livestock slaughtering. Entry to the butchery trade is usually more restricted than entry to other branches of the food trade, and the association of various lines of retailing common to these other branches does not apply to the selling of meat. While the segregation of pigmeat sellers from the sellers of other meats may often by explained easily on religious grounds, there is also likely to be a clear separation between the sellers of beef, the sellers of mutton and goat meat and the of offal.

To a large extent, the special character of meat retailing arises from the peculiar properties of the commodity, especially the fact that it is highly perishable and becomes worthless and offensive if it is not properly dealt with;. At the same time, its preparation for sale requires a certain skill, while standardization of form and quality is very difficult. Consequently, a meat stall or a butcher’s shop cannot be arranged and managed in the same way as a stall or shop selling general foodstuffs.


Traditional retailing

One special characteristic of meat marketing is the rapid turnover of stocks. In tropical countries at least, meat must usually be sold within a few hours unless refrigerated storage is available. Indeed, if the meat is not chilled, the interval between the production of the carcass at the abattoir and the cooking of the meat in the consumer’s household should not be much more than a few hours. Hence, the retailer usually receives a supply of meat early each morning and is likely to be sold out by midday.

The minimum facilities needed to handle such a rapid daily turnover are likely to be a clean table or stall with a chopping block and some handing space. Because of the public health risks in towns if such selling points are unsupervised, municipal authorities have customarily provided public meat markets where butchers can rent stalls in suitable premises. A special building may be provided or a meat section may be allocated in a food market or general market.

In low-income communities, most meat must be provided at the lowest possible price for consumers who can afford only beef, mutton or pigmeat ‘on the bone’, or meat, bone and scraps chopped and sold by the heap, Most market customers cannot pay for special services, qualities or elaborate presentation. Selling across a market stall is well adapted to such circumstances because it involves a minimum of investment and expenses on the part of the retailer.

Butcher shops

Wealthier customers are less likely to be satisfied by the conditions of sale in the market, especially if they do their buying themselves and not through domestic servants. Some still prefer to deal in an individual butcher’s shop where they can receive more personal service and select particular cuts of a better quality. They are willing to pay a premium for the extra services, the higher quality and the presentation of the meat in more attractive ways. Chilled and frozen meats in particular are more conveniently sold in a special shop than over a market stall. Individual butcher shops can also be dispersed throughout a town so that customers can do their shopping closer to home than they could if they had to depend on the central market.

Both public meat markets and individual shops have a role to play in a good meat marketing system. Between them, they meet the needs of different kinds of customers, widen the choice of products and qualities, and promote more effective competition in prices and services. Where retailing is confined to stallholders in the central market, the competition between them may be more apparent than real. Their proximity to each other tends to promote a corporate spirit and to encourage uniformity of prices and services by tacit agreement. Since traditional-style butchers tend to form a closely but group, they are apt to resist pressures for the type of changes that make way for a more modern and efficient marketing system. The encouragement of individual shops may be the best means of achieving progress and greater competition in prices and services.


The retailing of meat through supermarkets is already a feature in many large cities in developing countries. The economic factors behind the evolution of retail supermarkets in general isworthy of note. In brief, self-service supermarkets normally reflect a drastic substitution of capital in place of labour. Accordingly, they have been most successful in industrialized countries where labour wages are high and where there is most scope for capital investments in modern techniques and equipment. In order to utilize capital investments economically, the supermarkets must sustain a very high volume of turnover and sales, and this hi turn implies [location in centres where they can attract large numbers of customers with a high level of purchasing power. Given these conditions, marketing operations can be organized on a large scale and highly integrated so that costs and prices are kept down.

Where fresh meat is concerned, the supermarket system must be able to organize supplies of prepacked meat cuts in standard qualities. At the same time, customers must appreciate the convenience of buying meat in (his form enough to forego the kind of personal service and right of selection prefered in the conventional butcher’s shop. In the industralized countries the progress of supermarkets in building up fresh meat sales has been less rapid than for processed meats and general groceries because many shoppers still prefer to do business with the conventional butchers.

The growth of supermarket meat sales must be expected to proceed far more slowly in the developing countries, especially those in Africa and Asia. In Latin America some organizations have been making determined efforts to develop supermarket selling in lower-income areas, sometimes with government support. However, the main scope for this form of retailing is still in city districts having a considerable proportion of high income consumers.


Slaughter Facilities

The abattoir is the key point in the development of a livestock and meat marketing system. This is the only stage of physical concentration in the system and the point at which there can be immediate control over the conversion of livestock into meat and direct supervision of standards of hygiene and quality (Perm, 1977). In developing countries especially the rural communities in Nigeria, a large proportion of the livestock for consumption is slaughtered by producers or consumers within their own household. This is especially the case with sheep, goat and pigs and occurs more often during festivals. In many sparsely populated areas it is simply not worthwhile to build special premises for livestock slaughter. A simple concrete slab is considered a suitable killing-ground. Slaughtering in these primitive conditions should be distinguished from clandestine slaughter, which is practised outside authorized premises in defiance of public regulations. Butchers may be tempted to secretly slaughter animals which they believe to be diseased so that they can avoid the risk of having the carcasses condemned by inspectors at the abattoirs. In such cases there may be serious public health risks when the meat is subsequently marketed. Fenn (1977) described the various types of abattoir in use in the tropics. These include:

Slaughter Slab

The most primitive unit for the slaughtering of livestock in developing countries is the slaughter slab commonly found in villages or alongside public markets. This is often no more than a simple concrete area that serves to keep the carcass reasonably clean during slaughter. It may also be covered by a corrugated iron roof and furnished with a tripod or simple structure for raising the heavier carcasses for easier skinning and dressing.

Small Slaughter Houses

The typical small slaughter house is provided by the local authority to serve the needs of a large village or small town. It usually consists of one or two livestock personnel and a simple building that may even be opensided. There is normally a water supply and some form of drainage system but little equipment beyond a means of raising carcasses for flaying and dressing. Only a few animals have to be handled in any one day and the operating costs are very low.

Public Abattoirs

This provides slaughtering facilities for butchers. The term ‘public abattoirs’ applies to premises where the local government or another public authority provides facilities for butchers and their employees to slaughter livestock and to dress the carcass meat and offal. In some cases the slaughter hall is divided into a number of booths equipped with hoists, each for the use of one team of slaughterers, but in many others there is no such segregation and each animal is killed, flayed and dressed on the best available floor space; sometimes without the help of lifting gear. The conventional arrangement has been for each major town or city to have its own public abattoir where the community’s daily meat supplies can be prepared under suitable conditions and under official sanitary control.

Abattoirs Providing Direct Slaughtering Services

In some parts of the tropics, abattoir operations are carried out by the management and staff of the plant and not by the owners of the stock. The abattoir personnel take control of the animals at the entry to the premises and deliver the products to the owners at the exit. All the intermediate tasks of slaughtering, flaying, dressing, handling and storage are carried out by specialized abattoir employees. These abattoirs because of the central control of all operations within the plant, can make fuller uses of modern machinery and equipment and adopt production line systems. They provide direct services rather than facilities. Although the term is not wholly satisfactory, they are commonly called ‘industrial abattoirs’ to distinguish them from public abattoirs.

Abattoirs Associated with Processing Plant

This type of abattoir forms part of a meat processing plant so that the slaughtering and dressing are largely preliminary to further processing operations e.g. cutting and prepacking, deboning, sausage-making and canning carried on by the same enterprise.

The Improved Slaughter House/slab

In many rural areas and small townships in developing countries, the slaughter of animalsfor meat consumption is often carried out under far from ideal conditions. Meat produced undersuch conditions is often contaminated and must be considered a hazard to human health.Guidelines for the planning, construction and general improvement as described by Fenn (1977)could be adopted.

Planning Slaughter Houses

Before building a slaughter house there are a number of factors which should be taken into consideration to ensure efficient operation.

Choosing the Site

Ideally, the following points should be considered when choosing a site for a slaughter house or slaughter slab.

The site should be on a higher level than its surroundings. This will make drainage easier and will help to prevent pools of stagnant rain-water collecting around the slaughter house area.
An adequate water supply must be available so that slaughtering can be carried out under hygienic conditions.
Transport to and from the slaughter house must be very reliable
All trees and bushes within 20 metres of the area should be cleared to detract birds,insects, rodents., etc.
The area immediately surrounding the slaughter house or slaughter slab should beconcreted and cemented.

All slaughter houses and slaughter slabs should have permanent staff and only these members of staff should have access to the premises. Buyers of meat should not be allowed entry. Without a permanent staff it becomes difficult to maintain an adequate standard of hygiene because if local slaughtermen are allowed to provide labour and carry out slaughter, supervision becomes virtually impossible. A separate changing room should be provided for the staff and this should be adjacent to flush toilets and washing facilities.

Lair age

A lairage with a capacity of one and a half day’s kill should adjoin the slaughter house. Animals will often have travelled considerable distances and must be given the opportunity to rest and recover from stress before they are slaughtered, otherwise the quality of meat will be affected. Staff members should also be trained to handle animals gently. Each pen in the lairage should hold about 15 cattle and clean drinking water should be provided. There should be at least one pen for sick or suspect animals. Facilities should also be provided for ante-mortem inspection. The lairage floors should be made of impervious material and should be sloped toward open drains so that the floors can be properly cleaned. At least ten metres should be allowed between the lairage and the slaughter house and in this space a cattle race should be constructed, narrow enough to prevent an animal from turning around. If possible, the lairage should be roofed with lightweight material to protect animals from the heat of the sun and from rain.

Separating Clean and Dirty Operations

To avoid contaminating dressed carcasses and edible offal it is essential that the areas where clean and dirty operations take place should be well separated. In small townships or rural areas it is sometimes difficult to supply sufficient water during slaughter and this further increases the risk of contamination if clean and dirty operations are not separated. Proper planning and the correct sequence of activities reduce the danger of contamination even under less than ideal conditions. This starts with the construction of the lairage which, if kept clean, will ensure that animals entering the slaughter house do so as free as possible from contamination.The stunning and bleeding area should be the only place in the slaughter house where the animal may lie on the floor. This floor should be sloped toward an open drain. If cleanliness is not observed in the-stunning and bleeding area, contamination of the dressed carcass will increase.

Efforts should be made to allocate rooms for different purposes. There should be rooms set aside for:

(1)       Washing and cleaning of hides;

(2)       Handling stomach and intestines. The room where this takes place should be connected to the slaughter hah1 by a chute passing through a hole in the wall. There should be no other direct access;

(3)       Edible offals;

(4)       Meat inspection.


Obanu (1986) described familiar occurrences in developed and developing countries. The economic and hygienic handling of slaughter stock, from the time they enter the lairage until they leave the abattoir/slaughter house as dressed carcasses or as various edible and inedible tractions, appears deceptively simple; it is a skilled and complex series of operations as illustrated by the flow chart (figure 1.2). It is made even more cumbersome in the tropics by our high ambient temperatures and humidity, ignorance and poor sanitary standards, partial or complete lack of well designed abattoirs and slaughter facilities, inadequate water supplies and sewage disposal systems, heavy fly, rodent and vulture infestations, lack of refrigeration and deficient meat inspection service. The very first stage in a well organized livestock slaughter is lairage rest and care. For convenience, the lairage should necessarily be close to, but screened from, the slaughter slab or floor. An animal in the lairage should not be exposed to the stressful sight of its comrades on slaughter till it is its turn – hence the screening off of the lairage. There should, however, be an unobstructed access from the lairage to the killing floor; the entrance should be narrow, guiding only one to two animals at one time to the killing floor. Stunning, Sticking and Bleeding

Immobilization of animals for slaughter in our slaughter houses involves literally wrestling down the animal and tying up its limbs with ropes. The struggling is an exhaustive exercise which accelerates glycolysis and use-up of muscle glycogen resulting in pale soft exudative (PSE) or dark firm dry (DFD) meat. Under well organized slaughter, immobilization is accomplished by accepted methods of stunning which ensure humane slaughter and safety of operators. Stunning minimizes the struggle of animals during sticking, killing and bleeding and facilitates smooth operation of the slaughter line. Most common stunning methods include the use of hammer or pole axe, captive bolt, electric shock and CO2 suffocation. Whatever the method of stunning accepted, it is essential that the animal is rendered unconscious without destroying the medulla oblangata which controls the action of the heart and lungs- needed to pump out blood during exsanguination. Stunning should be followed as quickly as possible by sticking/killing and bleeding to prevent the animal regaining consciousness.

Sticking/killing of meat animals is commonly achieved by cutting the neck blood v« In local slaughter this usually involves partial or even complete cutting up of the neck rather than the blood vessels. This leads to collection of blood beneath the scapula causing taint by early decomposition. Bleeding is often on the slaughter slab or floor and is far from being thorough. Bleeding should best be done on the hoist with the animal hanging head downwards to ensure rapid exsanguination assisted by gravity, rapid collection of blood from the killing floor and to ensure minimal contamination of the carcass by blood. Efficient bleeding improves meat appearance and keeping quality.



After bleeding the animal and while the carcass is still hanging from the chain shackled around the hind legs, as practised in organized operations, the head is skinned and removed from the carcass. This operation is followed by removal of the legs or shanks and then initiation of hide removal. After the hide ‘is either skinned or pulled off, the carcass is opened and the abdominal viscera (e.g., intestines, stomachs) are removed. After this, the carcass is sawed or split into two sides.


Following bleeding, the animals are placed in a scalding tank. A safe scalding temperature is 57.2 to 71.1°C, the lower temperature requiring more time. Water up to 82.2°C can be used but is not recommended since the operator must remove the hog from the tank as soon as the hah- slips easily. Over-scalding causes the skin to contract around the base of the bristles, holding them tight, and is referred to as ‘setting the hair1. The carcass is then dehaired using a dehairing machine. In developing countries where facilities may not be available scrapping of the hair is accomplished with the use of knives. The carcass is then opened by a cut down the belly from hams to breast, avoiding cutting the intestines by guarding the point of the knifey and splitting the pelvic bone by following the white tissue that separates the hams. The bung is loosened and the intestinal tract removed. After both the abdominal and thoracic organs are removed the carcass is split through the center of the backbone and the leaf fat loosened or removed while the carcass is still warm.

Carcass Washing

All blood should be washed off from both the inside and the outside of the carcass. In cattle slaughter, it is a common practice in industrialized countries to shroud the carcass with cloth following washing. The shrouds absorb the blood, smooth the external fat covering, and cause the fat to appear white and dense. The shrouds or cloths are removed after the carcass has chilled. The purpose of the shroud is only to improve the appearance of the carcass for the potential buyer. This is however, not the case in developing countries. The high demand of meat cuts make this unnecessary. Moreover, with the advent of increased fabrication of beef carcasses into wholesale and retail cuts in packing plants the use of shroud has been discontinued in an effort to save costs.

Cutting-up and Boning

In most tropical slaughter, as in Nigeria, there is no standardized system of cutting-up the carcass, so cuts vary from butcher to butcher. In cutting up the carcass, it is always necessary to always start by cutting through the lean meat and then sawing through the bone in order to minimize contamination with bone ‘dust’ which leads to early putrefaction or taint. It is also necessary to cut along the natural seams forming the muscles so as to minimize injury to muscles and consequent drip loss of meat juice. Good personnel and environmental hygiene is essential to minimize microbial contamination.

Stress and Meat Quality

It is impossible to eliminate stress totally from pre-slaughter handling of animals and slaughter procedures, but since stress adversely affects most quality, it is important for economic reasons, as well as on humanitarian grounds, that it is kept to a minimum. An animal’s body automatically reacts against any stressful situation which is potentially damaging. Many aspects of this response are not obvious to an observer because they involve chemical changes inside the animal’s tissues. As part of these changes, the biochemistry of the muscles is altered: this, in turn, affects what happens when the muscles change into meat after death. Thus, stress in the living animal can ultimately influence the type of meat produced.

What Causes Stress?

As a general rule, we can say that any unfamiliar situation is almost certainly stressful. A number of factors are now known definitely to contribute to stress. They include overcrowding, transportation, and the mixing of unfamiliar animals as well as physical discomfort. Many of these factors are likely to be involved when animals are taken to slaughter. Animals are easily frightened, not only by the excessive use of goads, dogs, or noise, but also by apparently harmless practices. For example, loading or unloading animals by means of steep ramp or steps, may not seem particularly harsh treatment but it will, in fact, frighten them considerably and lead to stress.

Stress-affected Meat

There are two major ways in which meat quality can be affected by poor pre-slaughter handling. Firstly, actual damage of the carcass through bruising can lead to a loss of saleable meat and/or the downgrading of the carcass; and secondly, stress leads to biochemical changes in the meat which also result in loss of value. The loss due to pre-slaughter stress can be seen quite clearly in both beef and pork. In, pork, breed is very important, some breeds of pig being much more susceptible to stress than others. Lean, late-maturing breeds are the worst affected and produce high yields of pale, soft watery pork which is unsuitable for processing. It shrinks and toughens upon cooking. Fortunately, in West Africa more resistant breeds such as the Large White predominate, and so stress-affected pork is unlikely to be a major problem. On the other hand, long distance transportation of cattle means that there is a real possibility of stress-affected beef.

Normally, as a carcass cools down after slaughter it becomes acidic. This is due to a process known as ‘post-mortem glycolysis’, in which the sugar supplies of the muscles are converted into lactic acid. The rate and extent of post-mortem glycolysis, and therefore the amount of acid in the meat, depends on the pre-slaughter condition of the animal. If the animal has been suffering from stress it will have already begun to use up the sugar supplies in its muscles, and if the stress is prolonged, these supplies can become depleted. If, at this stage, the animal is given food and allowed to rest for at least 24 hours, the sugar supplies will be replenished. But, if it is slaughtered without such an opportunity to recover (i.e. while it is still suffering from stress, and its muscle supplies of sugar are very low), less post-mortem glycolysis will occur than normal, and so very little lactic acid will be produced in the carcass.

This means that the meat from stressed cattle will be less acid than it should be. This has important implications because the acid in meat helps to inhibit bacterial growth. Stress- affected beef, because of its low acid content, is susceptible to microbial spoilage, and will not keep for as long as normal beef. The reduction in its storage life has important commercial implications, and producers can be heavily penalized on the price offered for affected carcass. This is a clear example of how poor pre-slaughter treatment leads to reduced meat value. Stress-affected beef can be easily identified by its dark, blue-red colour, but unfortunately, by the time it is recognized it is already too late to rectify the situation.

Measures that should be taken to reduce the stress problem in the meat industry include:

Animals  should not be malhandled.  The use of sticks and whips should be discouraged, particularly prior to slaughter.
It is important to ensure that different social groups of animals should not be mixed together since  such practice are known to result in fighting among  animals. Overcrowding should also be avoided.
Animals should not be slaughtered immediately on arrival from long treks but should be rested in lairage for at least 24 hours.
Animals with fever (high temp) should not be slaughtered until the cause is found and treated to bring down the fever.
The lairage area should be quiet, airy and comfortable. This, together with the gentle handling of the animals and adequate supplies of feed and fresh water ensures that stressful conditions are eliminated. Above all, animals should be treated gently in the process of slaughtering. Production of meat in Nigeria as elsewhere is a very costly venture and profit margins could be drastically reduced by losses due to carcass damage or stress-affected meat.

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