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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 and what we can and cannot do so that you have a level of expectation that we can meet.
- Who regulates or oversees what you do?
PCM is a FSIS USDA-inspected facility. By being a "federally inspected" plant, meat from this facility bears the USDA Inspection Legend and can be sold across state lines.
- I have had PCM employees tell me not to help unload when I drop off, why? They are my animals.
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 that 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 asks you for assistance, and then do only what they ask you to do.
- How do I know that I am getting my animal back?
When you drop off an animal, it is assigned a number with a barcode 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. The barcode is scanned multiple times throughout the process to ensure traceability and accountability from drop-off to final pickup.
- Why do I need to schedule an appointment?
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 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 600 active customers, we have just as many requests, 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 not to have that 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.
- Why do you want my Cut Sheet at drop-off for slaughter?
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, or any combination. Keep in mind that we have over 600 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 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.
- I have heard the term one shot, one kill. What does that mean?
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.
- How do you slaughter animals?
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 hearts, 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.