Meat from the European Union member states

Over the history of human evolution, the events crucial for man's diet were the discovery and harnessing of the fire and the begining of land cultivation with the domestication of animals. The structure of human gastrointestinal system indicates that, ever since the begining of the evolution, meat has always been an important component of the diet.

Initially, the main source of "meat" for man were the animals which the man was able to capture or hunt down, especially the small and slow-moving ones. The development of hunting weaponry and hunting methods led to the increased diversity and size of hunted animals. The development of agriculture and the domestication of animals gave rise to the possibility to utilize the weakest and oldest animals for slaughtering. Subsequent development of breeding practices has become focused on the production of milk and meat. Along with the development of animal production, butchers' workshops and municipal slaughterhouses were established, which, at the beginning of the 20th century, were transformed into factories, thus giving way to the modern meat industry.

Under the conditions of butchers' production, the slaughter of animals and the production of meat preparations were made in the same workshop. The rise of municipal slaughterhouses resulted in a partial separation of these activities through the centralization of slaughtering and the establishment of a series of processing workshops. The transformation of butchers' workshops into industrial plants in the 20th century went different ways in Europe and in other regions of the world. In the relatively densely populated Europe, medium-sized industrial plants with full production profile (slaughtering, boning, processing) were being established. On the other hand, in the Americas, Australia or in South Africa, slaughterhouses were being built in the area of animal rearing, with the processing plants in more densely populated urban centers. In recent years in Europe, the tightening of the requirements for the protection of the environment and inhabitants from adverse effects in the vicinity of, in particular, slaughterhouses force potential investors to build meat-processing plants in locations far from urban settlements, or even to separate the animal slaughtering and carcass boning from the meat processing.

The development of meat processing technologies assumes some basic goals:

  • full utilization of all the products obtained in the slaughter of animals,
  • the processing of raw materials into safe, nutritionally complete meat products providing the consumer with satisfactory sensory experiences,
  • the most economical utilization of the relatively expensive raw material for the production of food.

Striving to implement these objectives, the meat industry was forced to make use of the latest scientific and technological solutions in the design, construction and operation. The current meat processing industry is highly mechanized and automated, in the phases of production, monitoring and quality control, packing, and distribution systems and marketing.

The European Union has defined in detail the principles of technology, hygiene, environment protection, trade, etc. for meat plant's activities. They forced a thorough modernization of the establishments and the entire chain of production of meat and meat products from "field to fork". The meat industry of the European Union is one of the most modern industries in the world, and a number of plants, particularly in the area of meat processing, are considered to be technological benchmarks.

Meat and meat products have become essential components of the diet, especially in the so-called "economically developed countries". Apart from the specific nutritional values, what attests to the attractiveness of the meat, as a component of the diet, are its unique taste and smell, and the relative ease and quickness of preparation of nutritious meals.