Kalahari 100% Grass Fed Beef and Humane Slaughter

A retailer ordinarily wouldn’t want to go here as it’s an uncomfortable topic but we are a business that is about transparency and doing things properly and giving the customer as much as information as we can about what they’re buying and connecting you to the farm as far as we can. Asking questions about how the animals are being slaughtered is important….I am going to go here – as uncomfortable as it is.
I think it is mission critical to to be as transparent as we can about how it occurs. None of us want to think that we have eaten from an animal that has been treated inhumanely or stressed. I want to know that respect has been given to the soul that provides me with food right up until the last moment.  If we don’t ask the questions and demand the answers, then we aren’t being fair to the animal and there is no pressure brought to bear on the farmer or abattoir to do things properly.
It’s an uncomfortable topic for some and those too sensitive to the topic won’t have a need to read further. I think that most of this audience though are people who do want to know that any animals they are eating are being treated humanely at slaughter and see it as their duty to know.
So I’m going to walk you through the process because extreme attention to detail has been put into it by Keith Harvey and I need you to know that the respect given to animal doesn’t end at slaugther. It continues right up until the end. Conditions for the humane slaughter of the animal are included in the protocols that are being registered for Kalahari 100% Grass Fed Beef too.
So let’s go through them.
The first bit of important information to cover here is how the animal for a start is transported to the abattoir. The cattle is slaughtered at the Vryburg abattoir so for a start, the distance between the farm and the abattoir is minimal. There are no long journeys from farm to town. Keith Harvey himself was involved in setting up the Vryburg abattoir and designed it in such a way that no stress is brought to bear on the animals, every aspect of the process is designed so that the cow has no idea that he is going to die and doesn’t feel stressed at any point.
From the start, the transportation has to conform to regulations set by *IMQAS (International Meat Quality Assurance Services). The Vryburg abattoir is registered with IMQAS which means it gets audited every week to conform to their regulations. For transport there are a series of regulations for the farmer or transportation company that is registered to transport an animal such as the fact that the vehicle isn’t allowed any sharp corners or objects in the back and it has to be fitted with non-slip carpeting.
Keith assures me that the transportation is generally done very carefully because if any animal is injured, the farmer loses that part of the animal – remember they get paid on weight, so if a driver transports animals badly, he won’t get used again because the farmer loses revenue. The cows at this point in time, while our volumes are still low are being transported by the farmer himself who gets them there as gently and carefully as he can because he wants them there in tip-top condition and he needs to get them there un-stressed. If the animal is at all stressed, their pH changes and their pH levels are tested when they arrive at Vryburg to check that they are not stressed.
Apart from ethical considerations, they do not want any adrenaline in the animal’s bloodstream at all because this also makes the meat extremely tough.
So that’s the transport. Then there are regulations for how long the animal should be rested for when he gets there.
For every hour the animal has travelled, he must rest in a kraal with water for 2 hours. This is to settle the animal and keep the atmosphere at the abattoir relaxed. The Vryburg abattoir has been set up to remain a very relaxed environment so that no animal is stressed. Keith explains that when one cow is stressed, they start ‘lowing’ and then the entire herd gets stressed too and at if that occurs they stop the whole process!
At the Vryburg abattoir, no lowing is allowed, no staff member is allowed to yell at an animal, it has to stay quiet, they do not allow the use of prodders at all, staff are trained to keep conditions quiet and relaxed.
If one cattle starts ‘lowing’, the whole process is stopped, animals are taken back outside to graze and tests are taken to check their pH to prove that they are calm again, that there is no adrenaline or cortisol in their bloodstream and only then can the process re-start. Keith says that everything is designed so that the cow never at any point smell blood, sees another dead cow or knows that he is going to die at all. Keith maintains that right up until the moment of death, the cow has no idea it’s coming.
The conditions for this are set under the HAS (Humane Animal Slaughter) protocols set for IMQAS who audits the abattoir. Part of the Kalahari 100% Grass Fed Beef protocols is that any animal that comes from Kalahari 100% Grass Fed Beef can only ever be slaughtered at an abattoir that has received a minimum 80% pass rate on their HAS score with IMQAS.
There are other abattoirs in the area that Keith won’t use because they don’t, the last score Vryburg got on their HAS score was 86% so that’s how he ensures that these cattle are being slaughtered only in abattoirs that are set up for humane slaughter.
They have also painted all the kraal walls green at Vryburg, Keith says because it mimics the colour of the veldt and calms animals, the silver they ordinarily use, he says is an uncomfortable colour for cows as they’re not familiar with it.
When it’s time for slaughter, they have designed a passage that has light coming from the top and is open at the top but black walls on either side. The cows are led through in single file and at this point Keith explains that you cannot have a cow knowing that they are going to die because then it will get stressed, if it’s stressed it will start lowing, if it lows, the whole process is shut down to return the cows to a calm state. So they walk single file, they don’t see anything to their left and right other than black and there’s natural light coming from the top.
At the end of the line, the cow is stopped and a bolt shot into his head from above. So he doesn’t actually see the man or have any idea that anything is about to happen, the bolt goes straight into the brain so that the brain dies immediately and the cow has no knowledge of the next part which is where the throat gets slit and then they’re hung.
Keith says when he designed that abattoir that is what they wanted to achieve, that a cow has no idea he is going to die and that the abattoir is peaceful and quiet.
Apparently Keith says they get fantastic shelf life too on this meat precisely because the animals are so relaxed at slaughter that the pH is low and ideal.
So that’s it. The abattoir is also Halaal registered and obviously needs to conform to humane slaughter practices for them too so I’m confident that this is being done in the best way possible.
I’ll put up a list of all the regulatory bodies involved here and I’ll post the protocols for Kalahari 100% Grass Fed Beef too up on our site so that we know where we’re at and have all the information.

Comments: 3

  • Vanessa

    Thank you for this article. It is really great to know where the meat comes from. I will not buy meat in supermarkets, as I don't even want to think where it comes from. I do have a question. Do you know how animals must be slaughtered to be Halaal? From what I've read, animals are not allowed to be stunned or killed before their throat is slit. A lot of people say that Halaal slaughtering is very inhumane and cruel. Maybe you can ask the farmer about this? Thanks again for making this process so transparent.

    • Debbie

      Hi Vanessa, thank you for such encouraging feedback. I agree with you that the transparency is vital and we have to discuss this as uncomfortable as it is. I have passed your comment onto to Keith to comment on Halaal slaughtering and how this differs to their process. He will probably be loathe, as would I to be honest, to pass judgement on Halaal slaughtering considering that it is a religious issue linked to meaning for so many people. I'm sure he will be able to tell us though what the differences are as he used to run the Vryburg abattoir. I will post up the response as soon as we receive it.

    • Debbie

      Hi Vanessa - here is the reply I got from Keith Harvey re your query, I hope this helps with clarity for you? Let me know: "Halaal is as humane as possible when you are killing an animal and trying to ensure quality. The animal has no fear or pain up till time of slaughter. The animal is led into the stunning box where it is anaesthetized with a stun gun. It is now brain dead and ready for slaughter. Throat gets cut to get all blood out of system to ensure quality, then animal gets an electrical pulse to stop rigor mortis which enduces tough meat. The animal is not aware of any of these actions. Never a pleasant sight, but it is humane. God bless. Keith

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