An inside look at how meat and poultry plants clean everything

An entire shift is dedicated each day to sanitation in meat and poultry plants.

Cleaning your kitchen is no easy task but an important one. Cleaning and sanitizing a meat plant is even more involved! That is the analogy that John Butts, Vice President of Land O’Frost uses when he invites people to see the process first hand in one of their plants in a video. The video is part of the American Meat Institute’s glass walls project.

Tremendous efforts go into sanitizing meat and poultry processing facilities every day. Every piece of equipment and parts are thoroughly washed, rinsed with extremely hot water, scrubbed with soap, rinsed again and sanitized after each day of processing. Walls, floors, and drains are also scrubbed and sanitized daily. The purpose of such intensive sanitation is to provide a clean environment to make safe and wholesome meat and poultry products for consumers to enjoy.

Worker safety is also an important part of the sanitation process. All equipment must be unplugged and a lockout, which does not allow the equipment to be turned on, must be applied before any cleaning can begin. There are many moving parts and pieces to much of the equipment used and it is important to properly protect workers from potential harm.

After establishments clean and sanitize their processing facilities, employees will look at all the areas again to make sure they did not miss anything. This would be similar to someone coming into your home and using a white glove to see how well you clean things. Testing of equipment and food contact surfaces for invisible microbes is also done regularly. Before the next production shift can begin, inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Service are given the opportunity to thoroughly look at the cleanliness of equipment and processing areas. If something is found that doesn’t meet the strict standards, the process of cleaning it starts all over again.

There are additional training materials available regarding sanitation for meat establishments. One that Michigan State University Extension specialist Sarah Wells helped with is a video produced by AFPD through a grant funded by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. This training video is useful for retail establishments that have a deli or meat processing area. 

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