Vietnam’s cattle processing sector is still at a primary stage, largely dominated by un-mechanised, small scale slaughterhouses. There are up to 6000 slaughterhouses in the country, most of which are privately owned, the rest are state owned. The owners of these private slaughterhouses buy cattle directly from farmers/traders, slaughter and sell beef to different markets. There are also some service slaughterhouses.
Animal slaughtering, meat processing and distribution at private household slaughterhouses are often characterised by unhygienic conditions due to poor practices and lack of infrastructure (MARD, 2014). According to the assessment of OIE (2007), these low cost operations are much better adapted to low value beef markets. Killings occur at night, ranging from a single unit to ten head per day. Animals are skinned and immediately cut in small pieces of meat to be sent mostly to wet markets. Transport and retail marketing is usually done with little or no attention to hygiene.
There are around 10 modern abattoirs in the country. The newer mechanised abattoirs (e.g. VISSAN Limited Company, the largest meat processer in Vietnam, a former state company) does adhere to international standards of hygiene for cattle slaughter. These abattoirs are able to slaughter 40 head of cattle/buffalo per day, and up to 80 head. According to MARD (2014), these modernised abattoirs, which cost billions of Vietnam Dong to build, often provided beef to high value markets e.g. restaurants and supermarkets (30%), wet markets (50%) and processed foods e.g. sausages and tinned beef (20%). However, it is often suggested that these modern abattoirs are working below capacity (just 10% of their capacity) as they cannot compete with traditional slaughterhouses that have lower overhead and operating costs.
Inspection at provincial and district levels can mostly be considered as cursory or non-existent. The veterinary inspectors usually just control the certificates of transport or origin. At commune and village levels, para-professional workers are not inadequately resourced, trained or equipped to do inspections.