Vanessa Yeager, Germany, University of Illinois, May 30, 2014

Today, after a good breakfast at Suite Novel Hotel in Hannover, we hopped on the train to TiHo and met with one of the professors there who teaches meat inspections to students there at the University. When we got there, we had a lecture on Ante-mortem and post mortem meat inspections. The talk was very interesting to the students (including myself) as back in the states, we don’t get very much instruction on meat inspection (if at all). We sat in a lecture hall specifically for teaching student’s cattle science and meat inspection science. Here are the key take always from the lecture:

– Meat inspection MUST be done by an official veterinarian within 24 hours before slaughter.

– After unloading of the animals, they let the animals calm down for a minimum of 2 hours

-The truck drivers are responsible for the animals from picking them up from the farm to carrying them to the slaughter house. If they pick up animals that are not suitable for slaughter, it’s their fault!


– Inspection of the group, then the individual

-Things to consider: is the animal moving normally? Does the animal have a zoonoses (difficult to see), are the animals contaminated? Do they have correct identification? (They are not allowed to be slaughtered without the proper markings). Is the animal weak? Does it have pathological signs of disease?

-An animal is not allowed to be slaughtered if it has evidence of systemic disease, emaciation, zoonoses, or not identity.

– Slaughter can be postponed for longer time if animals are excited by transport and/or the withdrawal period is not expired in which case the animal is slaughtered and meat is tested.

Post Mort

-Animal must have proper identification

-Considerations include: The condition of the animal after slaughter, exsanguination status of the animal, general condition of the animal, If the animals are too light for their age, the presence of residues, or meat quality changes.

-Cattle: The inspection is visually and you do cut into the tissues for additional investigation.

-Pig: Inspection was similar to cattle until recently the rule will change and only a visual inspection will be necessary for all pig carcasses.

After the lecture, we got to see firsthand how a meat inspection is completed on both a cow and a pig. The instructors there were very knowledgeable and walked us through the inspection process, what the look for and why, and how to make the decision to condemn the carcass and not fit for human consumption. The key take always from that part of the presentation:

-Look on the outside of the animal: Any signs of disease? Signs of improper exsanguination? (Pooling of blood towards the head of the animal)

-Age the animal (teeth). Presence of M1 should be 6 months old. Presence of M1 and M2 indicates an older pig (9-13 months).

-Inside of the carcass: any signs of disease? various lymph nodes are cut into (want to rule out systemic disease).

– The organs are inspected: Heart is sliced open and inspected for worms, Hemorrhage, endocarditis, ect, the intestines, and the “pluck”. Liver and lungs are inspected for disease (respiratory disease, milk spots to indicate ascarids, ect).

We had a quiz at the end of the presentation-the professor showed us pictures of carcasses and organs and we had to decide whether or not it was suitable for human consumption, some parts were suitable, or no parts were suitable. He only gave us 50 seconds to look at each carcass picture! And that is how fast they normally do it. Talk about quick decision making!

After the quiz, we grabbed a bite to eat in town at a Turkish restaurant, then headed back to TiHo for a lovely tour through the cattle clinic. A very nice assistant gave us the grand tour of their facilities. I was very impressed by how much practice they allow their students to get with these cattle. One cow for every two students to practice palpation on! In terms of keeping their facilities free of any highly communicable disease, animals are quarantined for a day in special stalls to be monitored.

The day ended after the tour and we toured the shopping area for a bit, and then headed to dinner at a terrific Bavarian Restaurant. The menu was extensive and included German specialties like schnitzel, bratwurst and spaetzle but also had traditional dishes that are left “under the radar” like this wonderful turkey and mushroom dish (like a stroganoff) with fried potato hash and fresh salad. After a filling dinner, we walked back to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep before everyone left to travel back home the next day.

To summarize the Germany Public Health trip, this has been a terrific learning experience in a variety of ways. It was an eye opening experience to see how another country views their health and safety and food production. Germany really has high public health standards and is very concerned about the quality of the food produced. They have a very fast outbreak response (such as in a food borne outbreak) and also have extremely low drug residues in their meat. They really value animal welfare and have a litany (I think thousands) of laws pertaining to animal welfare alone. Germany seems to have a law for nearly everything!

It was also beneficial in seeing how another country’s vet school operates. Much emphasis is placed on gaining a variety of experiences and although challenging, the system does not feel as rushed as it is in the states. Since it is a government paid program, the students who are selected and go to TiHo come out of school with only about 5k in debt. This opens more doors for them career wise and they are more open to gaining more experience out of vet school. Many of them do go on to do a PhD.

Lastly, it was just terrific to be in another country and experience a different culture and explore their history. Having not traveled to Europe before, I came home seeing my world in a new light and I think I am more open to other ways of life than I was before the trip. I really loved that part of the trip and will absolutely be back, perhaps even work there at some point. My German has to improve before that happens…thank goodness for Rosetta stone. J

I’m very happy to have been a part of this wonderful excursion.

Danke und Auf Wiedersehen!