Humans have learnt the techniques of meat processing in the pre-historic times. First meat-related recipes date back to the Roman Empire. However, historians claim that Romans learnt how to salt and cure meats from the Gals and Celts who were more advanced in the culinary education.
Throughout the history, particular European regions have developed and mastered their own techniques by using newly acquired knowledge and experience. European agriculture was based on natural environment. Therefore, Southern Europe cured meat in open air and Central and Eastern Europe cold smoked or cooked the meat.
The invention of a can was a huge advancement in the meat processing. It translated into a growth in the number of sterile and pasteurized products available. New reforms in this industry were caused by the development of transport and industry, human migration, and growth in meat consumption. Meat processing and animal slaughtering, previously inseparable processes, started to take place in different locations. At the beginning of the 20th century, specialized processing plants were transformed into professional production facilities. Today, meat processing industry is gravely mechanized and automated at all stages: production, monitoring, quality control, packaging, and distribution.
Apart from the technological changes, the meat processing industry has undergone profound reforms concerning regulations and control. Agricultural industrialization and centralization of the European agricultural sector management by the European Union contributed to the introduction of coherent sanitary and quality regulations. According to the European Commision policy, the main goal of the Community is to promote the interests of consumers and ensure a high level of protection of consumer’s health. Producers and distributors are responsible for obeying these standards. Thanks to the monitoring all stages of production, the European Union possesses complex knowledge about products’ identification, origin, and ingredients used.
The European meat processing industry is a well-functioning branch of food industry with various characteristics. Due to the competitiveness of the market, these are the consumers whose opinion influences the meat industry and allows to present a tailored product offer. The economic development is determined by regulations concerning international quality standards and sanitary and safety regulations. At the same time, Europeans have maintained production and promotion of the products deriving from the centuries-long culinary traditions of the Old Continent.