Process Good for Industry and the Environment
By Jim Core
August 15, 2001
Improving a technique to remove hair
from cattle hides immediately after slaughter spells good news for tanneries,
has the potential to reduce bacterial contamination of meat and is friendlier
to the environment than conventional methods.
Animals enter the slaughterhouse with many microorganisms on their hides,
some of which are pathogenic to humans. If present, bacteria such as
Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella and Listeria
monocytogenes can contaminate meats and meat by-products.
A method developed more than 10 years ago by former
Agricultural Research Service researcher
David G. Bailey and industry cooperators--and only now successfully
engineered--removes hairs from the hides of cattle before they are skinned,
significantly reducing the threat of meat contamination.
One reason this de-hairing process hasnt been adopted is the projected
high cost of waste treatment associated with it. Recent improvements, developed
by researchers at the ARS Eastern Regional
Research Center, Wyndmoor, Pa., in collaboration with Future Beef
Operations, LLC, a start-up beef-processing company, permit recycling of the
sulfide, recovery of the removed hair and an overall reduction in the impact of
the process on the environment.
This patented method starts with spraying a solution of sodium sulfide onto
the carcass hide. The substance breaks protein bonds within hair fibers so they
can be removed. A sulfide-neutralizing agent is then applied to complete the
The tanning industry benefits immensely, according to Andrew G. Gehring, a
research chemist in the Hides, Lipids and
Wool Research Unit at ERRC. It allows the packer to remove the bulk of the
hair, split the hide and send the top (grain) layer for tanning and the rest
(corium) for other uses. This saves time and expense compared to the
traditional handling of the entire hide. It also permits early-stage inspection
of the hides grain layer, reducing shipments of low-quality hides to
This technology will be utilized by FBO in its first Kansas meat-packing
facility, opening this month.