Why Carcasses & Organs are Condemned at Slaughter

Why Carcasses & Organs are Condemned at Slaughter 

 Over 141,000 cattle, about .05%, are condemned at US slaughter plants each year. Federal veterinarians condemn about 0.05 percent of cattle presented for inspection. Every animal is inspected before and after slaughter by food safety inspectors or veterinarians, who look at the overall carcass with emphasis on heads, organs and lymph nodes for signs of disease. If something is abnormal, it is set aside and assessed further to determine if it is suitable for human consumption. Every rejected carcass receives a certificate as to why it was condemned and includes information like the producer’s name and lab results. 

Animals could be condemned for 40 different conditions, but five issues stand out.  
Sometimes carcasses have multiple conditions but pneumonia is the primary reason for condemnation. Diagnosis is based on visual assessment and the cause of illness is often linked to bovine respiratory disease. 

The second reason is peritonitis, an infection of the lining of the stomach. 

Edema is a generalized condition affecting the circulation system where fluid accumulation throughout the carcass. 

Atrophy is associated with emaciated animals. There was no data on the age of animals, but they know these show up more often during periods of drought. 

Emaciation may show up as acid burning in the stomach, a change in the fat where it has a yellow and/or jelly-like appearance. There is often no fat around the kidneys or organs. 

Hepatitis is a general term where the liver looks diseased. The liver may be condemned but there could be other conditions apparent at the same time. 

The liver is most often condemned due to flukes, a parasite that is highly present in non-brittle environments such as the upper midwest. Abscesses are also a common reason for liver condemnation.  

Kidneys can sometimes contain urine pockets or abscesses which most often result in condemnation.  

The heart can have pericarditis or scarring from pneumonia.  

“Woody tongue” or abscesses are the main reason for tongue condemnation.

We harvest everything for human consumption. If an animal is marked as suspect and subjected to further testing, the animal is side-railed by itself and held until lab results come back to either release the animal for further processing or deemed not fit for human consumption in which case the animal and all of its entrails must be disposed of under inspection supervision. This process basically eliminates the risk of a systemically diseased animal making it's way into our food system, ensuring us all that what we are buying on the open market is safe and wholesome to consume. The challenge in this process is that you, the farmer, have an investment in that animal and we, the processor have a lot of valuable time and effort invested in that animal by the time the carcass makes it into the cooler. Furthermore, rendering companies charge a fee to dispose of these carcasses. Neither you or us win in the case of a condemned animal. The best thing to do is to avoid the possibility of having a condemnation situation by avoiding bringing sick or diseased animals, but sometimes no one could have seen it coming. 

For our latest policy on how we handle condemned animals and the costs associated, click here.