After the relative production disappointment of the band's 1984 debut album The Smiths, singer Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr produced the album themselves, assisted only by engineer Stephen Street, whom they had first met on the session for "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" and requested the contact number of. Officially, the record's production is credited to "The Smiths", with Rourke and Joyce allowed say about their instruments' sound-levels in the mixing.
Meat Is Murder was more strident and political than its predecessor, including the pro-vegetarian title track (Morrissey forbade the rest of the group from being photographed eating meat), and the anti-corporal punishment "The Headmaster Ritual". Musically, the band had grown more adventurous, with Marr and Rourke channelling rockabilly and funk influences in "Rusholme Ruffians" and "Barbarism Begins at Home" respectively.
In the NME article "Flying the Flag or Flirting with Disaster?", "Rusholme Ruffians" was one of the tracks cited in reference to accusations of racism against Morrissey. The magazine noted the implications of placing the song's antagonists in Rusholme, one of Manchester's most ethnically diverse neighbourhoods.
Morrissey also brought a political stance to many of his interviews, courting further controversy. Among his targets were the Thatcher administration, the monarchy, and his musical contemporaries. When asked about Band Aid, which was being strongly promoted in the UK media at the time, he quipped, "One can have great concern for the people of Ethiopia, but it's another thing to inflict daily torture on the people of England."
To build upon the album's soundscape Morrissey provided Marr and Street with his personal copies of BBC sound effects records to source for samples. Morrissey would continue this practice on future Smiths singles and albums.