The biological removal of nitrogen and phosphorus from nutrient-rich abattoir wastewater using granular sludge has been investigated. A lab-scale sequencing batch reactor, seeded with granular sludge developed using synthetic wastewater, was operated for 13 months under alternating anaerobic and aerobic conditions. It is demonstrated that the granules could be sustained and indeed further developed with the use of abattoir wastewater. The organic, nitrogen, and phosphorus loading rates applied were 2.7 gCOD L−1 day−1, 0.43 gN L−1 day−1, and 0.06 gP L−1 day−1, respectively. The removal efficiency of soluble COD, soluble nitrogen and soluble phosphorus were 85%, 93%, and 89%, respectively. However, the high suspended solids in the effluent limited the overall removal efficiency to 68%, 86%, and 74% for total COD, TN, and TP, respectively. This good nutrient removal was achieved through the process known as simultaneous nitrification, denitrification, and phosphorus removal, likely facilitated by the presence of large anoxic zones in the center of the granules. The removal of nitrogen was likely via nitrite optimizing the use of the limited COD available in the wastewater. Accumulibacter spp. were found to be responsible for most of the denitrification, further reducing the COD requirement for nitrogen and phosphorus removal. Mineral precipitation was evaluated and was not found to significantly contribute to the overall nutrient removal. It is also shown that the minimum HRT in a granular sludge system is not governed by the sludge settleability, as is the case with floccular sludge systems, but likely by the limitations associated with the transfer of substrates in granules. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2008;100: 529–541. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.