Photos: Behind the scenes look at new high-tech beef abattoir

More than 50,000 cattle and 25m kg of beef will be processed each year at the revamped ABP processing plant at Ellesmere, Shropshire.  

ABP group agriculture director Richard Phelps says the new high-tech, certified carbon-neutral facility is highly efficient, which he believes is important for the future of the industry.

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“It is important the red meat industry drives forward. We need to be competitive on an EU level and we need efficiency at all stages throughout the supply chain.”

He says the site has invested in technology such as video image analysis (VIA) and a high-welfare lairage handling system, which has helped reduce costs of grading, while at the same time improving meat quality.

Farmers Weekly goes behind the scenes to find out what the new facilities offer.


Curved incline within a Lairage at ABP's processing facility

© Stonehouse Photographic/ABP

  • More than 50,000 cattle will be processed through the lairage at Ellesmere every year, with the vast majority coming from Shropshire and surrounding counties. Some 2,000 farmers supply cattle to the site.
  • The company handles 20% of UK beef (10,000 head) across 10 sites each week, making it the UK’s largest beef processor.
  • The lairage is designed to the high-welfare principles developed by animal behaviour expert Temple Grandin and includes curved solid walls, baffled gate locks to cut down on noise, with particular emphasis on ventilation, lighting and space. ABP has also added in a number of other features to keep animals calm, which in turn benefits meat quality.

VIA carcass grading

Carcass undergoing video image analysis

© Stuart Bingham Photography/ABP

  • VIA grading, which involves taking a 3D image of a carcass, is used to help provide a more accurate and objective system. The company believes this will give farmers more details on their carcasses, helping them select the best animals for breeding in the future.
  • VIA has also reduced the cost of grading as they no longer have to pay an individual grader. However, the machine is calibrated every day.
  • There are five ABP sites across the UK using VIA.

Boning hall

ABP worker in a deboning hall cutting meat from the bone

© Stonehouse Photographic/ABP

  • Skilled butchers work in the boning hall ensuring carcasses are deboned and primals trimmed to the exact specifications required by customers.
  • In excess of 25 million kg of British beef is processed in the boning hall at Ellesmere.

Fridge facilities

An ABP employee inspects meat in a chiller facility

© Aiden Crawley/ABP

  • ABP Ellesmere is a carbon-neutral site and the company claims it is the most sustainable beef-processing facility in Europe.
  • Fridges are powered by a combined heat and power (CHP) unit on site.
  • The heat generated as part of the refrigeration process is recycled and then used as a heat source across the site.
  • The CHP unit runs on a combination of biofuel derived from tallow (rendered from fats from animals slaughtered on site) and biodiesel.

Further processing

©ABP/Stonehouse Photographic

©ABP/Stonehouse Photographic

  • The site is a complete end-to-end operation and, following chilling and maturation, beef is further processed to meet customer requirements.
  • The packing facility deals with in excess of 100m packs of meat each year.
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