Meat Hygiene Inspector

The Job and What's Involved

Meat production and processing are controlled by very strict rules, and the highest standards of health and safety, cleanliness and care. Meat hygiene inspectors are responsible for making sure that these high standards are met. They also certify that meat is safe for people to eat.

Meat hygiene inspectors carry out a variety of tasks, including:

  • Visiting slaughterhouses, cutting plants and cold stores to check on standards and advise on the correct procedures.
  • Working with veterinary officials to inspect live animals to make sure they are not carrying any diseases.
  • Carrying out postmortem inspections on dead animals.
  • Checking meat plants and processing equipment to make sure they are hygienic.
  • Checking that slaughterhouses take account of animal welfare to make sure processes are humane.
  • Supervising the disposal of unfit meat.
  • Writing reports on their inspections.
  • Keeping abreast of new and amended regulations.
  • Informing meat producers and processors of changes in regulations.
  • Checking that their recommendations have been carried out.

Meat hygiene inspectors work with many different people including cattle and poultry breeders, slaughterhouse staff, staff in production and processing plants, vets, other inspectors, butchers and meat retailers.

Meat hygiene inspectors normally work 37 to 40 hours a week from Monday to Friday. They may have to work evenings or weekends if they want to visit a meat plant or processor outside normal working hours. Sometimes they work overtime to meet deadlines. There are opportunities for part-time work and job share.

The job can be strenuous and meat hygiene inspectors need to be able to lift and move heavy carcasses, which can be unpleasant to touch. They wear protective clothing for some tasks. People with skin allergies may not be able to do the work.

Meat plants can be extremely cold or extremely warm. Meat hygiene inspectors sometimes need to work on a factory line system which involves a lot of standing.

They travel around from one inspection site to the next so a driving licence may be useful.

Starting salaries may be around £15,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Meat hygiene inspectors work for the Meat Hygiene Service which is an executive agency of the Food Standards Agency. The Meat Hygiene Service offers around 1,600 job opportunities in around 1,400 different plants throughout the UK. Around 1,000 of these posts are for meat hygiene inspectors.

Employment trends are fairly stable. However, there are very few job vacancies for meat hygiene inspectors as the work is very specialised.

Job vacancies are advertised in the local and national press, on the internet and in Food Standards Agency bulletins.

Education and Training

To become a meat hygiene inspector, applicants must hold the Certificate in Meat Inspection from the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health (RSPH). There are a number of entry requirements for a course leading to the certificate which include:

  • Five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including English and either a science subject or maths.
  • Level 3 qualifications awarded by the Meat Training Council (MTC), such as the Advanced Certificate in Meat and Poultry, Level 3 Meat and Poultry Processing, or the Associateship (previously offered by the Institute of Meat).
  • Submission of a 5,000 word project or dissertation on a science-related subject.

Details of how to become an associate can be obtained directly from the Meat Training Council.

All meat hygiene inspectors need a medical before they start work.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

The Royal Society for the Promotion of Health (RSPH) offers a Certificate in Meat Inspection and a Certificate in Poultry Meat Inspection. These certificates are the essential qualifications for people who want to work as meat hygiene inspectors.

Each certificate is made up of two modules - a foundation module and a specialist module dealing with either red or white meat. The foundation module is common to both qualifications. This means that someone who wants to qualify to inspect both red and white meat needs to pass only one foundation module and the two specialist modules.

The college-based part of the training covers anatomy and physiology, pathology and meat inspection, animal welfare, hygiene and legislation. The remainder of the training is practical and takes place in slaughterhouses. Each module is examined by a written paper and a practical or oral exam.

Qualified meat hygiene inspectors do in-house or short training courses to keep up to date with changes in the law, regulations and procedures.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A meat hygiene inspector should:

  • Understand the importance of health, safety and hygiene.
  • Be knowledgeable about the meat industry.
  • Be methodical and pay attention to detail.
  • Have a thorough knowledge of the laws governing meat and poultry production.
  • Be adaptable and flexible.
  • Be a good communicator in speech and writing.
  • Be able to build good working relationships with many different kinds of people.
  • Be calm when dealing with difficult people or situations.

Your Long Term Prospects

Experienced meat hygiene inspectors could be promoted to supervisory or management posts in the Meat Hygiene Service. Promotion could mean spending more time in an office and less time visiting plants and slaughterhouses.

Some meat hygiene inspectors move into related jobs such as food processing and production, or teaching in a college.

Get Further Information

Food Standards Agency, Aviation House,
125 Kingsway, London WC2B 6NH
Tel: 020 7276 8000

Food Standards Agency Northern Ireland,
10c Clarendon Road, Belfast BS1 3BG
Tel: 02890 417700

Food Standards Agency Scotland,
St Magnus House, 6th Floor,
25 Guild Street, Aberdeen AB11 6NJ
Tel: 01224 285100

Food Standards Agency Wales,
11th Floor, Southgate House,
Wood Street, Cardiff CF10 1EW
Tel: 02920 278999

Meat Hygiene Service,
Foss House, Peasholme Green,
York YO1 7PX
Tel: 01904 455500

Improve Ltd, 2 Innovation Close,
Heslington, York YO10 5ZF
Tel: 0845 644 0448

Meat Training Council,
PO Box 141, Winterhill House, Snowdon Drive,
Milton Keynes MK6 1YY
Tel: 01908 231062

Royal Society for the Promotion of Health (RSPH),
38A St George's Drive, London SW1V 4BH
Tel: 020 7630 0121

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