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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Can we use meat inspection data for animal health and welfare surveillance?

Comin, Arianna; Jonasson, Anita; Rockstroem, Ulrika; Kautto, Arja Helena; Keeling, Linda; Nyman, Ann-Kristin; Lindberg, Ann; Froessling, Jenny


Ante- and post-mortem inspections at abattoir were originally introduced to provide assurance that animal carcasses were fit for human consumption. However, findings at meat inspection can also represent a valuable source of information for animal health and welfare surveillance. Yet, before making secondary use of meat inspection data, it is important to assess that the same post-mortem findings get registered in a consistent way among official meat inspectors across abattoirs, so that the results are as much independent as possible from the abattoir where the inspection is performed. The most frequent findings at official meat inspections of pigs and beef cattle in Sweden were evaluated by means of variance partitioning to quantify the amount of variation in the probabilities of these findings due to abattoir and farm levels. Seven years of data (2012-2018) from 19 abattoirs were included in the study. The results showed that there was a very low variation between abattoirs for presence of liver parasites and abscesses, moderately low variation for pneumonia and greatest variation for injuries and nonspecific findings (e.g., other lesions). This general pattern of variation was similar for both species and implies that some post-mortem findings are consistently detected and so are a valuable source of epidemiological information for surveillance purposes. However, for those findings associated with higher variation, calibration and training activities of meat inspection staff are necessary to enable correct conclusions about the occurrence of pathological findings and for producers to experience an equivalent likelihood of deduction in payment (independent of abattoir).


meat inspection; beef cattle; finishing pigs; lesions; variance partitioning analysis; animal health surveillance

Published in

Frontiers in Veterinary Science
2023, Volume: 10, article number: 1129891