Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Riverford Organic Slaughter Procedure

Riverford Organic Slaughter Procedure

Below is Accurate of November 2018, it is a copy of an email received from Riverford:

Here are the details of the slaughtering procedure. I have also added in a little extra to how the animals are kept. If you did want to find out anymore you are more than welcome to call us here at the Farm (Riverford Organic). Or on our (Riverford Organic) website at the top left hand side there is a tab called 'about' click on that one and scroll down there is another box on the right hand side click on 'faqs' this will open up all the information about why we do things the way we do, packaging, prices vs supermarket prices, etc. 

There is a lot of information backed up with scientific facts to support our ethos here are Riverford.
All the beef and lamb used at the butchery is bought directly from members of our producer group, who are all within 40 miles of the abattoir. The group is very selective and we only use farmers we have a long trusting business relationship with (some also supply veg into Wash). All producers and their farms have been visited and approved by the butchery general manager. Regular visits are also carried out during the year.

We (Riverford Organic) use a small family run abbattoire in Devon that is 10 minutes’ drive from our butchery. Unlike most abattoirs, they only slaughter three days out of seven so it is not done on a mass scale (low throughput). It is fully E.C. licensed and Soil Association approved, has a full time F.S.A. meat inspector and veterinary surgeon on site during slaughter.

The method used is called stun & stuck- which means that the animal is “stunned” to render them unconscious and then “stuck” which means their throat is cut. This process is only carried out by fully licensed and trained slaughter persons under the supervision of the F.S.A. staff.

Lambs are held in a holding pen, in groups of 3 – 4 as this reduces stress, where they are “stunned” on either side of the head with a specially designed electrical stunner. The voltage and “stun” time is meticulously monitored to ensure the animal is fully unconscious before “sticking”. They then have their throats cut (“sticking”) and allowed to bleed before being further processed.

Cattle are held, separately, in a specially designed “stun box” and shot with a “captive” bolt rather than by electrical stunner because they are so much larger the electric method would not give an effective “stun”. The animal is then “stuck” by having its throat cut and allowed to bleed before further processing.

Chickens are processed at another “low throughput” facility in Devon. This facility is also fully E.C. licensed and Soil Association approved to process poultry and again there is a F.S.A. veterinary surgeon on site during slaughter.

The chickens are hung on a moving line and get dipped into an electric bath & “stunned” before coming out the other end where a fully licensed slaughter person is waiting to ensure they are fully stunned before cutting their throats (“sticking”). They are allowed to bleed before further processing.
I can assure you that all our animals are killed in the most humane way possible; none are killed using “ritual” slaughter methods, and they do not suffer any unnecessary stress or pain. The welfare of the animal is very important to us and our chosen processors.

All premises are monitored and supervised by F.S.A. officials who are completely independent. We also visit and audit the premises on a regular basis to ensure every process meets our own high standards. The butchery won the R.S.P.C.A. award for good business in 2011.


All of our lambs come from farms local to the butchery and they live outdoors all year round as this is the most natural way for the animals to live. They will graze on grass and natural herbage in the spring and summer and are given hay/silage in the winter & autumn. Farmers may also supplement the sheep’s diet with organic sheep nuts if there is insufficient grass to graze.

Farmers will bring the ewes inside to lamb where there will be straw bedding and penned off areas. These areas are large enough for the ewes to be comfortable but small enough to ensure the safety of the lamb. As soon as the farmer feels that the lamb is safe and healthy it will be turned out to pasture with its mother, this could be anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days.

The sheep are free to graze naturally which means that they are able to grow at their own rate. This means that the meat produced is as natural as possible, giving it a wonderful flavour and the right balance of muscle and fat.


Our (Riverford Organic) beef herds live outdoors for the majority of their lives and all are traditional beef breeds. The Soil Association welfare regulations dictate that they must be brought inside for a period during the winter time. This is to allow the pastures to recover during the wetter months of the year so that the grass will be lush ready for the animals to be let out in early spring.
When the cattle are brought inside they are kept in large barns with good ventilation. They all have large bays in the barns with plenty of straw bedding that is regularly maintained. During this period they are fed a diet of silage with occasional cereal supplements.
As with other organic livestock, the beef herds are fed and kept as naturally as possible. This ensures that the meat has the right balance of muscle and fat, and also means that the need for vaccinations is eradicated.


Our (Riverford Organic) pork is now supplied by Helen Browning Organics. http://helenbrowningsorganic.co.uk The pigs are British saddlebacks who live outdoors all year round. They are in fields which have natural shelter as well as “pig arks”. These arks are open so the animals can exercise their natural behaviour patterns without restraint, avoid sunburn on the hotter days and keep warm in the winter time. The pigs are fed organic pig meal.
The pigs will be taken inside a few days before they are taken to the abattoir. They are brought inside so that the farmers can make sure they are clean, healthy and up to weight. The barns have a good ventilation system which keeps the pigs healthy and cool. They have the run of a large barn which is bedded with straw. Pigs are sociable animals and enjoy being able to be together in the barns. All pigs are allowed to grow at their own rate. They are not given any supplements or fattening aids.


All our (Riverford Organic) chickens are organic. The chickens have huts for shelter which are opened each dawn so the chickens can go in and out freely and easily during daylight hours. They are shut in their huts at dusk to have protection from predators during the night.
The chickens are fed organic chicken feed inside the huts but when they are outside they scratch and forage in the grass for worms etc. and lead a totally natural existence. Outside we also provide them with shelters which they can use for protection from predators and/or inclement weather.
Our farmers keep small flocks of chickens as opposed to larger ones. This is so that the chickens have plenty of space inside the huts and outside. Inside the huts the chickens have perches and hay bales and feed toys (dried corn to peck at e.t.c.).