Victorian farmers will soon be able to have livestock slaughtered on-farm for commercial use after new legislation passed the Upper House last month.
The new laws allow farmers to use mobile abattoirs to kill and process livestock on farm, forgoing the need to have animals trucked to static facilities.
The demand for meat killed on-farm is likely to come from consumers who favour high-end premium meat products and are concerned about traceability and animal welfare standards.
Meat marketing expert Michelle Lally says that while the changes will have a positive effect for animals, producers and consumers, the devil is in the detail of the legislative changes.
“In the short term, the livestock market is strong so there’s less incentive for farmers to brand their own meat,” she said.
“But, consumers want more transparency with their food, which farmers can only offer if they have their own abattoir”.
“Another thing to consider is that farmers who want to slaughter meat on farm must meet the same regulations as commercial-scale abattoirs, which can be quite an onerous process.”
Lally says that the success of on-farm abattoirs could be increased if several farmers formed a cooperative to share responsibilities.
“A small-scale abattoir could work for a group of neighbouring farmers by eliminating transport costs, improving meat quality and animal welfare standards, while sharing the responsibility of the operations and compliance of the abattoir.”
While some industry players have expressed concern about the management of waste from mobile abattoirs, Lally says that small and mobile abattoirs offer a number of potential benefits compared with larger scale processors.
“Large facilities have an enormous waste footprint and the benefit of a decentralised system is that waste is more easily managed.”
“One of the more common options is to use waste products as compost, but this is not the most revenue-efficient model. There are emerging technologies which offer more profitable potential, including insect farming and bio fertiliser production, which presents the opportunity to revolutionise the commercial fertiliser market and provide farmers with a circular economy.”
Commonly, commercial abattoirs make a lucrative income stream by selling waste into the blood and bone market. According to Lally, this could add up to $100,000 per annum depending on throughput.
News of the legislative change was welcomed by Victorian producer Chris Balazs, who developed his own mobile abattoir business, Provenir.
Concerned about the cost and animal welfare implications of having his own cattle processed at a traditional abattoir, Mr Balasz set about developing an alternative model.
But as a Victorian-based operator, he has only been allowed to process livestock in New South Wales where on-farm slaughter has been allowed.
Mr Balazs is able to process up to 15 cattle a day, eliminating the need for the animals to be transported and improving meat quality.
Cattle are stunned with a bolt to the head before being bled out. Once each animal is stripped from its hide, Mr Balazs takes the carcasses back to his own farm for butchering and hanging.
Legislative changes will take affect in early 2020.