Meat industry safety regulations and how ERP can help

Of all mass-produced foodstuffs, meat likely has the most stringent regulations attached to it. And there are good reasons for this; for one, meat can be more dangerous than other food. If dealt with incorrectly it is far more likely to carry diseases – some of them potentially deadly to humans. Disease in meat can stem from the way the animal was kept all the way through the supply chain to poor storage or cross contamination by retailers.

There are a host of other important factors which necessitate strict rules. It’s very important the quality and provenance of meat can be proved to maintain high standards of nutrition, taste and trust. The infamous horsemeat scandal is one such incident where checks on quality and provenance broke down and public trust was seriously damaged. And then of course there is animal welfare – each jurisdiction has its own requirements for the conditions animals to be used as meat are kept in.

This is why any business that keeps livestock or is involved in the slaughter of animals, preparation or sale of meat needs to be closely regulated. But the rules meat businesses of all sizes must follow are often manifold, complex and hard to keep on top of. In fact, they can easily become an impediment to an efficient production schedule and impact the bottom line.

Complexity of regulations for meat businesses

The rules and regulations in the meat industry can seem to be constantly shifting as industry consensus changes and regulators learn from new problems. A recent example of this is the spate of Covid-19 infections traced to meat packing plants.

Specific requirements will differ by location and type of business among other factors. For instance, in the UK all the following types of establishment need special approval from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to be allowed to operate:

  • Slaughterhouses
  • On-farm slaughter facilities
  • Game handling establishments
  • Cutting plants
  • Meat wholesale markets
  • Minced meat establishments
  • Meat preparations establishments
  • Mechanically separated meat establishments
  • Processing plants 
  • Cold stores
  • Re-wrapping establishments

The rules themselves are covered in granular detail and shrouded in complex language. The FSA’s ‘meat industry guide’ spans an entire 20 chapters of technical legislation. And beyond this, consider the complications involved in purchasing and selling meat across national borders – where businesses will be required to satisfy a whole new set of safety regulations. For small and medium sized meat enterprises especially, the scale of regulations can be a burden. But the alternative is worse.

The nightmare scenario for any food business is having to recall products – and the nature of the meat industry means failure to meet industry standards is more likely to result in a recall. With the average cost of a recall estimated to be around $10m and the reputational damage potentially even more costly, businesses can tread a fine line.

How can food ERP help with compliance?

By now, you’ll probably be aware of the power of Enterprise Resource Management (ERP) for increasing efficiency and helping a business expand. But you may not have given as much thought to how an ERP solution could help your meat business comply with regulations.

In particular, food-specific ERP is ideal as it has been built with the specific tools to accommodate the requirements of the industry. For instance:

  • Lot traceability. ERP makes the traceability process more transparent for all parts of the supply chain. As the origins of meat products come under tighter scrutiny, the visibility ERP gives is invaluable.
  • Quality control. Food ERP offers superior quality control at a consistency otherwise impossible. ERP that is meat industry-specific can be built to regulate product to pre-defined quality specifications. The interconnectedness of ERP allows this control to extend seamlessly over entire inventories.
  • Shelf life management. Having control over every aspect of your inventory is the key to avoiding a major food safety disaster. Not only will ERP prevent meat that doesn’t comply with industry standards from being sold, instances of meat being stored incorrectly or past its expiry date will be far rarer due to the logistical intelligence of the technology. Crucially, this cuts lost revenue through wastage.
  • Recall functionality. If the worst happens and substandard meat is despatched, ERP’s specific recall functionality is there to mitigate the damage through quick and smart communication.
  • Protocols enforced across a business. ERP links the compliance process across all parts of a business, making it harder for individual mistakes to slip through the cracks. Through mobile technology, an ERP system’s centralised database can be extended to all workers, as can create checklists and reminders of correct standards,  protocols, and testing regimes.

ERP for the meat industry can prove invaluable in avoiding disastrous safety breaches, especially in the current climate of the pandemic. But beyond this, its value is to enable businesses to focus on growing and improving as their technology solution largely handles regulatory compliance.