Working with your processor can be a smooth and seamless transition from farm animal to food on a customer’s dinner table. As a producer, you have a certain way of doing things in running your business that work for you and likewise so does the processor. Understanding how things work from the time you call for an appointment to picking up your product can make all the difference. At Piedmont Custom Meats (PCM) we want you to know how things work, what we can and cannot do so that you have a level of expectation that we can meet.
PCM is a TA plant: we are inspected by NCDA Meat and Poultry Inspection. “TA” refers to the Talmadge-Aiken Act of 1962, a law passed to help coordinate state and federal food safety guidelines. This law allows trained inspectors that are state employees to staff meat packing plants with USDA inspection privileges. A “TA plant” is “federally inspected” plant, which means that meats from this facility bear the USDA Inspection Legend and can be sold across state lines.
Just like your business we have a schedule. When you bring us an animal you have an expectation of how long you want the animal to hang in the case of beef or bison and when you want us to cut it or you want us to process your pork, lamb and goat as soon as possible. With over 800 active customers we have just as many request, so to meet everyone’s expectation we have a scheduling system. We know how many head we can slaughter in a day and how many head we can process. Without a schedule we would overbook the slaughter days which may cause us to have your animal stand overnight when you would prefer that not happen. Additionally, if we cannot finish within the stated Hours of Operation we have to a make special request of the Inspectors and pay the state additional monies to work overtime, we can’t simply just keep working.
Just like scheduling animal drop off, we schedule the process and packaging aspect of our business. We can only cut and package just so many animals in a day, whether all beef, pork, lamb, goat and bison or any combination. Keep in mind we have over 400 active customers who are also trying to meet their customers’ expectations. The only way for us to help you do that is by knowing how and when you want your product cut and packaged. The processing date of an animal is a combination of how long you want that animal to hang ,in the case of beef and bison, and the necessity to get pork, lamb and goat product out as soon as possible after slaughter as they do not benefit from hanging for long periods of time to age. Combine all of these factors together and you need a cut schedule that in most cases is organized anywhere from 5 to 10 days ahead of time. What and how we cut on any given day dictates how much we can do. If all you want is your beef cut into subprimals or boning out and just making ground meat, we can do that pretty quickly. If we are cutting every possible combination of finished cuts and grinding ground meat, that takes a lot longer and we do fewer animals in a day. The same with another species.
We need your Cut Sheet instructions as soon as possible to know how long it will take us to do your animal so that we can meet your expectation and everyone else’s. The same holds true on the days we process and package as on slaughter days. If we are working beyond the stated Hours of Operation, we have to make special request of the Inspectors. Unlike some inspected facilities, in a slaughter and processing plant we are working and handling meat products and an Inspector has to be on sight.
It means we only get one chance to get it right. You want your animals to be humanely slaughtered and that is our job. It means exactly what it says. We get one shot to render your animal “slaughtered”. If we fail to do that, we can be shut down for hours or even days.
On cattle, lamb and goat, we use captive bolt guns to slaughter. On hogs, we use electric stun guns to render them unconscious and a second time to stop their heart which is allowed under every humane handling regulation. On some occasions we will use a rifle to shoot hogs based on their weight, with one shot rendering them “slaughtered”. We shoot bison and only get one shot to put them down.
As soon as you drive through the gate, the animals on your trailer that belong to you become our responsibility under the USDA Humane Handling regulations for slaughter plants. We want you to keep in mind, as soon as you enter the property, everything that happens from that point forward is under the authority and supervision of the Inspector. They have the final say on everything. If in their sole opinion you have transported an animal in an unsafe trailer or are using excessive force to get the animals off of the trailer, PCM suffers the consequences. If you pull out a ‘Hot Stick” or use excessive force to get a stubborn or reluctant animal off of the trailer, PCM gets an Inhumane Handling Violation, which can and usually will shut down the plant.
Let us get the animals off and in a pen unless a PCM employee ask you for assistance, and then do only what they ask you to do.
When you drop off an animal, it is assigned a number with a back tag. That number stays with the animal throughout the entire process. After the animal is slaughtered the tag is removed from the hide, placed in a sanitary bag and attached to the carcass. A second tag with matching number is attached to the second half if the carcass is split. These numbers are recorded on the slaughter floor and entered into a production log which is then sent to the front office at the end of the day.
At drop off you are given a matching number(s) which you give to the front office and it is entered into a log with your name or farm name. Those numbers are then matched up to the cut sheet you leave at the office with the same number. If you do not leave cut sheet and call them in later, we match up your name with what is on our records for carcasses hanging in the cooler. If you don’t leave a cut sheet, we will tell you to make sure that the number(s) you were given at drop off are on the cut sheet.
On production day, the cut sheets with numbers are matched to the carcasses in the cooler and stay with that carcasses all the way through packaging to delivery.