Two series of experiments were carried out to investigate methods of reducing contamination of lamb carcasses in low-throughput abattoirs, where cradle dressing is normally employed. In the first series, cradle design and pelt removal procedure were investigated, and a method was developed for assessing gross visible contamination. Significant improvements in microbiological and gross visible contamination (P < 0.01) were achieved by procedural changes only; modifications to the cradle design had no effect. In the second series of experiments, two improved methods of pelt removal and the effect of hand washing prior to carcass contact during the pelt removal procedure were investigated. The improved methods comprised a Frame system, in which the pelt was removed in a manner similar to that in a high-throughput inverted line, and a Hybrid system, in which the pelt was removed from the forequarters on a conventional cradle before the carcass was suspended in an “inverted” vertical position for removal of the pelt from the abdomen and hindquarters. The results of microbiological and gross visible contamination from these methods, with and without hand washing, were compared with the conventional Cradle method of pelt removal. Both the Hybrid and Frame systems had significantly less microbiological and gross visible contamination (P < 0.01). However, hand washing had no significant effect on the level of carcass contamination for all three methods of pelt removal. Greatest reductions in microbiological and gross visible contamination were achieved using techniques that minimized hand contact with the carcass during pelt removal by adoption of inverted dressing procedures. Equipment redesign did not reduce carcass contamination.

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