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Professional Version

Postmortem Inspection of Production Animals

By

Kathryn R. Polking

, DVM, MPH, DACVPM, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship

Last full review/revision Jun 2022 | Content last modified Jun 2022

Inspectors examine animals immediately after slaughter and evisceration for possible changes and lesions that indicate unsuitability of the meat for food. Postmortem examination requires observation of all parts of the carcass, dressing procedures, equipment, and facilities to prevent contamination of edible parts. Carcasses and parts found to be sound, healthful, and not adulterated receive a mark of inspection; carcasses and parts found to be diseased or contaminated are condemned. In some circumstances, a carcass may be passed for cooking only. Inspectors must ensure that condemned carcasses and parts are disposed of safely, and keep control of carcasses passed for cooking until that process is complete. Line inspectors carry out routine postmortem inspection to detect carcasses with clinical signs of disease or other conditions warranting further examination by a veterinarian.

Routine postmortem inspection procedures for cattle, sheep, goats, pigs (swine), and poultry are described here.

Cattle

Head: Observe the surfaces and eyes. Incise and visually examine the mandibular, parotid, medial, and lateral retropharyngeal lymph nodes. Examine the lateral and medial masticatory muscles. Examine and palpate the tongue.

Viscera: Examine the abdominal viscera and mesenteric lymph nodes. Examine and palpate the ruminoreticular junction. Examine the esophagus and spleen. Incise and examine the cranial, middle, and caudal mediastinal lymph nodes and the right and left bronchial lymph nodes. Examine and palpate the costal and ventral surfaces of the lungs. Incise the heart from base to apex through the interventricular septum, and examine and cut inner and outer surfaces. Incise and examine the hepatic lymph nodes. Incise the bile duct in both directions and examine the contents. Examine and palpate the dorsal and ventral surfaces and renal impression of liver.

Carcass: Examine the internal and external surfaces. Palpate the internal iliac and superficial inguinal or supramammary lymph nodes. Examine and palpate the diaphragm and kidneys.

Calves (Veal)

Head: Observe the surfaces. Incise and examine the medial retropharyngeal lymph nodes.

Viscera: Examine and palpate the bronchial and mediastinal lymph nodes, heart, and lungs. Examine the spleen. Examine and palpate the dorsal and ventral surfaces of the liver, and palpate the hepatic lymph nodes. Examine the abdominal viscera.

Carcass: Examine the exposed inner and outer surfaces. Palpate the kidneys and internal iliac lymph nodes.

Sheep and Goats

Head and carcass: Examine the body cavities and outer surfaces. Palpate the back and sides of the carcass. Examine the head, neck, and, shoulders. Palpate the prescapular lymph nodes. Examine and palpate the kidneys. Palpate the femoral, popliteal, and superficial inguinal or supramammary lymph nodes. Incise the lymph nodes when necessary to exclude caseous lymphadenitis.

Viscera: Examine the abdominal viscera, esophagus, mesenteric lymph nodes, omental fat, and spleen. Examine the bile duct and gallbladder and their contents. Examine and palpate the liver and the costal and ventral surfaces of the lungs. Palpate the bronchial and mediastinal lymph nodes. Examine and palpate the heart.

Pigs

Head: Examine the head and cut surfaces. Incise the mandibular lymph nodes.

Viscera: Examine and palpate the mesenteric lymph nodes and the spleen. Palpate the portal lymph nodes. Examine the dorsal and ventral surfaces of the liver. Palpate the left and right bronchial and mediastinal lymph nodes. Examine and palpate the dorsal and ventral surfaces of the lungs. Examine and palpate the heart.

Carcass: Examine the external and internal surfaces, and incise any suspected abnormalities. Examine and palpate the kidneys.

Poultry

Observe the overall condition. Examine the external surfaces for dressing defects, bruises, and disease lesions. Observe the exposed hock joints. Examine the internal surfaces, kidneys, and lungs in place. Examine the viscera.

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