A sequencing batch reactor (SBR) system is demonstrated to biologically remove nitrogen, phosphorus and chemical oxygen demand (COD) to very low levels from abattoir wastewater. Each 6 h cycle contained three anoxic/anaerobic and aerobic sub-cycles with wastewater fed at the beginning of each anoxic/anaerobic period. The step-feed strategy was applied to avoid high-level build-up of nitrate or nitrite during nitrification, and therefore to facilitate the creation of anaerobic conditions required for biological phosphorus removal. A high degree removal of total phosphorus (> 98%), total nitrogen (> 97%) and total COD (> 95%) was consistently and reliably achieved after a 3-month start-up period. The concentrations of total phosphate and inorganic nitrogen in the effluent were consistently lower than 0.2 mg P l(-1) and 8 mg N l(-1), respectively. Fluorescence in situ hybridization revealed that the sludge was enriched in Accumulibacter spp. (20-40%), a known polyphosphate accumulating organism, whereas the known glycogen accumulating organisms were almost absent. The SBR received two streams of abattoir wastewater, namely the effluent from a full-scale anaerobic pond (75%) and the effluent from a lab-scale high-rate pre-fermentor (25%), both receiving raw abattoir wastewater as feed. The pond effluent contained approximately 250 mg N l(-1) total nitrogen and 40 mg P l(-1) of total phosphorus, but relatively low levels of soluble COD (around 500 mg l(-1)). The high-rate lab-scale pre-fermentor, operated at 37A degrees C and with a sludge retention time of 1 day, proved to be a cheap and effective method for providing supplementary volatile fatty acids allowing for high-degree of biological nutrient removal from abattoir wastewater.