In February 2021, the Dutch Vion Food Group took over the Adriaens cattle abattoir in Zottegem, Belgium. The state-of-the-art abattoir wants to focus on the development of short, regional supply chains. Strong relations with the farmers and measures for animal-friendly slaughter constantly ensure the quality of a safe and tasty end product.
Vion Food Group is an international supplier of meat and plant-based meat substitutes and is mainly active in the Netherlands and Germany. Following the takeover of Adriaens in Velzeke near Zottegem, Vion has an abattoir in Belgium for the first time. Before the takeover by Vion Food Group, Adriaens had already been working with the Dutch business. The state-of-the-art and animal-friendly facilities of this particular cattle abattoir eventually persuaded the Dutch group to invest. As Pascal De Clerck, plant manager at Vion Adriaens, explains, “Vion Adriaens is active in the slaughter and butchering of cattle. With a slaughter capacity of 2,500 cattle per week and two fully-fledged cutting halls, Vion Adriaens is one of the largest cattle abattoirs in Belgium. Currently, 1,500 cattle are slaughtered each week. Now that the company is owned by Vion, we hope to start growing again.”
Regional supply chain
With the acquisition of Adriaens, Vion wants to focus on the development of regional supply chains. Pascal De Clerck explains, “Our customers want to know what they are buying and where it comes from. By working in regional supply chains, our customers know exactly where their meat comes from. Through our links with local farmers and cattle traders and by working mainly with home-reared cattle, we can develop a high-quality and transparent beef supply chain.”
Together with Adriaens, Vion has taken measures in recent months to ensure more animal-friendly slaughtering. Pascal De Clerck explains, “We have installed an automatic driving aisle in our abattoir, which is quite unique in Europe. It is a method for making slaughter less stressful for the animals. After the cattle have calmed down in the large barns, they are led through a fenced-off semi-circular aisle with no corners, so they are not frightened or distracted.
Safe and sustainable food
According to Pascal De Clerck, Vion Adriaens has an ultra-modern infrastructure to guarantee food safety, such as rapid cooling tunnels and vacuum cleaners. Other production methods also help the abattoir to meet the growing demand for sustainability. For example, the ecological footprint is reduced by recycling waste water into potable water.
Everything is usable
The sustainability of the sector also means that nothing is wasted from the cattle carcass. Pascal De Clerck explains, “We use almost everything, from the carcass to the meat. Other parts can often be used as raw materials for other products. For example, cow hide is processed into leather and other residual products are used as raw materials for pet food or the pharmaceutical industry.”
Luc De Laet is already full of praise for Vion Adriaens’ operations. With his company Butcher’s Store, the expert butcher from Hove has built up a meat empire that includes three butcheries, a wholesale business and two restaurants. The majority of his customers are in the hospitality sector and the business supplies more than 250 restaurants in Belgium and beyond. It goes without saying that only top quality is good enough for this master butcher. After a tour of the abattoir, he is convinced that Vion Adriaens can deliver this quality. He calls the Vion Adriaens abattoir a true gem.
Respect for animal and product
As Luc De Laet says, “Just write that my company and I want to put up a barrier against blandness of flavour. By offering exceptional meat products, I want to persuade consumers to eat less meat, but much better meat. But to do this, all the links in the meat supply chain must be optimal. It starts with the partnership with farmers and cattle traders, who want to offer the best quality. Those who confine themselves to the regional, short supply chain are also more in touch with this sector and can select the best quality.” But the abattoirs are also of prime importance in the supply chain, Luc De Laet continues. “Cattle that are slaughtered in an animal-friendly way are not stressed. And that has a very beneficial effect on the flavour of the meat. It is actually all about respect for the animal and the product. And that’s something that is certainly evident at Vion Adriaens.”
Quality meat can only be produced if the hygiene conditions throughout the production process are optimal. Luc De Laet therefore took a close look at whether Vion had invested sufficiently in an infrastructure that could guarantee food safety. According to the master butcher, the Vion Adriaens abattoir is also outstanding in terms of hygiene and food safety. The fact that maintaining strict standards and norms also comes at a price is of little importance, according to Luc De Laet. “If you want quality meat, you have to pay for it. A good product should cost what it has to cost. People then have genuine respect for what is on their plates.”