Step 1 - Before you can sell meat as a business you will need to check local authority requirements, details of which can be found on the food standards agency web page https://www.food.gov.uk/contact/consumers/find-details/contact-a-local-food-safety-team
Step 2 - Select your abattoir, which should be licensed for goats. Any abattoir licensed for sheep is also licensed for goats but may not accept them.
If it's FSA approved it will have a plant ID number and CCTV throughout (in England and Scotland ). You need to find out if they private kill goats (as opposed to contract kill). Can they deliver to your chosen butcher/cutting plant? Could they cut them for you (often the cheapest option)? Will you need to collect? How much will it cost? What days do they kill goats and what availability is there? If you require Kosher/Halal slaughter, are they accredited? Do they pre stun?
Step 3 - Assuming your goats are ready, book in and organise transport. Trailers must be fit for purpose and drivers must be legally entitled to drive, properly trained and if appropriate have animal transport certification. Most abattoirs will give you a time slot for arrival. Try to be punctual and call if you're going to be early or late. If you miss your slot, you may be turned away, or your stock may be delayed for slaughter, possibly even kept overnight. Everything is timed, it really matters!
Make sure your goats are clean and the transport is clean.
Step 4 - When you arrive, the lairage team will direct you to the unloading ramp. You will need to present your movement licence and FCI (food chain information declaration) including page 2 if there is anything to report).
You will usually be asked to fill in a 'wash form', stating that you will wash your trailer out, confirming you are aware you will be charged for this. You will then fill in the booking in form, confirming animal ID tags and carcass destination. The animal welfare officer (AWO) and Official Vet (OV) will be present to assess the stock at unloading. If you are unsure about any stock you are taking in (for example a lameness issue), call the abattoir before setting out on your journey. Most will be happy to help and offer advice, and much prefer this as they can then prepare for your arrival. For example, an older, unsteady animal could be given priority for slaughter on arrival.
That's your bit done. Once in the lairage, every person that handles, moves or carries out any activity with your stock will be licenced to do so. This is a personal licence issued by FSA. If it is ever revoked, it cannot be reissued without exceptional circumstances, so individuals take their jobs very seriously. Everything is normally monitored on cameras (compulsory in England and Scotland) and recordings are kept for 3 months.
The goats are put in a holding pen with water available. If they are held over 12 hours, they must be fed and given bedding.
At time of slaughter, the goats will be pushed into a holding pen. From here they will be taken forwards and stunned either by captive bolt or electric (majority are electrically stunned). Both captive bolt and electrical stunning are methods which render the animal unconscious and insensible to pain. Captive bolt stunning is usually non recoverable, the damage caused to the brain being sufficient to kill the animal. Electrical head stunning is recoverable and can therefore be used in some religious slaughter (depending on interpretation). Legally and practically both are considered stunning in the slaughter process and are followed up by exsanguination to cause death.
Processing after slaughter
The goats once dead are skinned, manually in smaller plants, mechanically in larger plants. The hooves and heads are removed. Next, they are moved along to the processing lines to 'dress' - a standardise way of removing offal and unwanted parts of the carcass. After that they are put over a scale, weighed, classified if you're lucky and labelled. The carcass then goes into a large fridge ready for delivery. One reason that some abattoirs will not take smelly old billies/bucks is the possible contamination inside these large fridges where thousands of pounds worth of meat is stored!
Whilst the thought and practicality of sending your goats to slaughter can be emotional and possibly intimidating, the staff at the abattoir are professionally trained to ensure the process is as smooth as possible. If you have any concerns or queries, the vast majority of abattoirs will be happy to answer these. Any major or in-depth enquiries are best made by phone or email in advance as staff on the day will be understandably busy.
This article was written by Peter Tubby, AWO (Bristol Uni) WATOK licenced. RPA Classification Certified. Information supplied in this article is advisory only and there can be regional differences in approach and is correct as of Nov 2022