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Factors to Consider When Choosing a Slaughterhouse

A slaughterhouse is the last step in the lifecycle of your livestock. All the work you’ve put into production leads up to the processing and packing of the meat.

That’s why it’s so important to put careful thought into choosing a slaughterhouse that matches your needs. This part of the process will have a significant impact on the final quality and safety of the products you provide to the market.

In the sections below, we’ll discuss several important factors to consider when choosing a slaughterhouse to partner with.

1. Quality of Work

This is the most obvious quality to look for in a slaughterhouse. You’ll want the job to be done with precision and expertise so you can achieve the best finished product.

Read reviews of the slaughterhouse online or ask a friend to help you determine the quality of work. You can also ask the slaughterhouse manager about their procedures for slaughtering and handling the meat.

After working with a slaughterhouse, you should closely examine the quality of their work to determine if you want to do business with them again.

2. Cleanliness and Sanitation

Animal slaughter is a messy business. Not only is it very messy, but it must to be kept clean for health reasons. A clean facility is an indication of a well-managed slaughterhouse. Ask to be shown around the slaughterhouse before bringing in your animals.

3. Location and Availability

Another important factor to consider when choosing a slaughterhouse is their availability. Some slaughterhouses are backed up with customers. For these slaughterhouses, you may need to get on a waiting list months before you plan to get your animal(s) processed. Be sure to ask about availability and plan ahead!

4. Pricing

Pricing varies depending on several factors. The pricing will be determined by the weight of the animal, desired cuts, extra services, and more. Additionally, every slaughterhouse has different rates to determine their pricing.

We recommend getting quotes from various slaughterhouses so you can make the most informed decision. Get a detailed breakdown of the fees for slaughter, butchering, packaging, and any other services you’re getting from. It’s also worth asking if there are any bulk discounts offered.

5. Services Offered

Before working with a slaughterhouse, you’ll need to make sure they offer all the services you need. Consider aging, storage, packaging, labeling, etc.

Make a list of all the services you need and double-check to make sure the slaughterhouse can meet your needs. It’s also worth asking about services that you may need in the future so you can stick with this slaughterhouse long-term.

6. USDA or Other Certifications

Slaughterhouses may have different certifications and inspection processes, so you should be sure that they offer the certifications you need to process your animals.

This could include USDA inspection, certified organic, halal, kosher, humane handling, and more. Some slaughterhouses may not include any of these certifications, others will specialize in a particular certification, while some businesses offer all of these.

7. Inspection Policies

As a new potential customer of a slaughterhouse, it is very useful if you can get a first-hand look at the slaughterhouse operations. Ask the slaughterhouse what their policies are for customer inspections. Transparency and openness is a good sign that they have nothing to hide.

Ask for a tour of the facilities, inspect their cleaning procedures, ask questions, and take photos (if allowed).

Questions to Ask Before Doing Business

There are probably at least a couple of slaughterhouses in your area to choose from, so how do you choose one to do business with?

You might be tempted to choose based on the lowest price, but there are many other factors to consider. Here are some questions that you’ll want to ask the slaughterhouse before doing business with them.

  • Are you USDA or state-inspected?
  • What is your availability/capacity?
  • How do you price your services?
  • What are your cleaning procedures for the facility?
  • How long have you been in business?

We recommend contacting multiple slaughterhouses in your area to get answers to these questions. Then, you can make an informed decision. Be sure to review the previous section about factors to consider when choosing a slaughterhouse. Write down all of your questions related to each factor that is important to you.

What to Expect

Overview of the Process

Before taking your livestock for slaughter, there are a few things to keep in mind. You’ll want to keep your livestock off feed for 12-24 hours before slaughter, however you should allow them free access to water. It’s also important to keep animal stress low, as this can reduce the quality of the meat. Ask the slaughterhouse if there are any other steps you need to take to prepare your livestock.

When it’s time to process the animal, the slaughterhouse will start by stunning the animal while it is held in a chute. There are several methods of stunning, which varies depending on the type of livestock. Common stunning methods include captive bolt for cattle, electrical stunning for pigs, and CO2 stunning for poultry. Stunning causes immediate unconsciousness so the animal feels no pain.

After stunning, the animal is shackled by a hind leg and hoisted up. The throat is cut, allowing it to bleed out. Once bled, the carcass may be skinned, eviscerated, and washed. The carcass is then chilled for 24 hours or more before cutting to allow rigor mortis to complete.

Now, the slaughterhouse butchers and packages the carcass per your specifications. They can also provide value-added services you request such as smoking, curing, or sausage production.



You’ll want to have an idea of how much it costs to get your livestock slaughtered and processed.

Slaughter and processing prices change depending on certain factors, such as animal weight, the cuts you order, and your location. Not all meat processors charge the same rates. Therefore, you should contact one directly for an accurate quote.

You can generally expect the cost of processing a cow, hog, lamb, sheep, or goat to be $50-150 for slaughter and $0.50-1.25 per pound (hanging weight) for the base processing fee. For poultry, you can expect to pay anywhere from $3.50-$20.00 per head depending on the size and weight of the bird.

Additional “per pound” processing fees will be added for the cuts you order and other services, such as curing and smoking.

Here are examples of slaughterhouse prices for you to check out:


It’s expected that the final yield of packaged meat from a livestock animal will be less than 100% of its live weight. This is because portions like blood, hide, bones, fat, and viscera are removed during processing. But what yields can you reasonably expect?

For beef cattle, the carcass weight after slaughter is typically about 62-64% of the live animal weight (SDSU Extension). From that beef carcass, you can get a retail cut yield of 55-75% of the carcass weight. That’s 550-750 pounds for every 1,000 pounds of carcass weight. The yield percentage depends on the animal’s muscle-to-fat ratio. Fatter carcasses will yield less retail cuts.

For market hogs, the standard carcass weight is about 75% of the live weight. Of that pork carcass, you can expect a retail cut yield equal to about 65% of the carcass weight.

The final packaged meat yield will also depend on the specific cuts you select, as some have more usable meat than others. Post-slaughter aging of beef also reduces moisture content, further lowering yields. Talk to your slaughterhouse about projected yields based on cut preferences.

Frequently Asked Questions

Many people have questions related to slaughterhouses, especially if they’re new to meat processing. This section will answer some common questions that people ask about slaughterhouses.

What is Custom-Exempt Slaughter?

Custom-exempt slaughter, commonly referred to as “custom processing,” is a practice used by many to process their meat.
A custom-exempt operation is not subject to continuous federal or state inspection. As a result, the processed meat is for personal use of the owner. It will be labled “Not for sale” and cannot be sold to the public.
Custom processing is most often used for processing wild game, but may also be used for livestock, such as cattle and pigs. The biggest downside for custom processing livestock is the inability to sell the meat afterwards, although there is a loophole.
Since custom processed meat is for personal use of the owner, you can sell the animal, in part or in whole, to new owners prior to processing. Once the animal is processed, the resulting meat will be split among the new owners.

Best Weight to Slaughter a Cow

The best weight to slaughter a cow is between 1,050 and 1,350 pounds for a hiefer according to Ohio 4-H Youth Development. Once you get above 1,600 pounds, some slaughterhouses might not be able to handle that weight (Lancaster Farming). On the other hand, processing under the recommended weight could results in a low return on your investment.

Best Weight to Slaughter a Pig

The best slaughter weight of the pig to be anywhere between 230 and 300 pounds.
If a pig is slaughtered too early (below recommended weight), you may not get a high enough yield and will also get smaller cuts. On the other hand, pigs that gain too much weight do not convert feed to meat as efficiently. This means you’ll be getting less meat for the amount of feed you’re using.
It’s also important to know that some slaughterhouses charge extra fees for hogs over a certain weight; these extra charges can be significant!