Friday, October 22, 2010

Chicken processors adopt 'humanely slaughtered' methods

Supermarket chicken comes in a variety of "healthier" forms today and soon consumers may be able to purchase "stress-free" chicken, which was killed in what some view to be a more humane way. "The new system uses carbon dioxide gas to gently render the birds unconscious before they are hung by their feet to have their throats slit, sparing them the potential suffering associated with conventional slaughter methods," William Neuman of The New York Times reports. "When you grab a chicken, turn it upside down and put it on the line, it’s stress, stress, stress," said Scott Sechler the owner of Bell & Evans. "Our system is designed so that we put them to sleep without stress and we kill them without stress."

Marketing of stress-free chicken has its limitations. "Most of the time, people don’t want to think about how the animal was killed," David Pitman, whose family owns Mary’s Chickens, told Neuman. Anglia Autoflow, which built the news system for Mary's Chickens and Bell & Evans, calls the process "controlled atmosphere stunning." Pitman said  his company is considering using "sedation stunning" on its packages and "humanely slaughtered," "humanely processed" or "humanely handled." Sechler wants to call the process "slow induction anesthesia" on his company's packaging.

Pitman said the trick is to "communicate the goal of the new system, which is to ensure that the birds 'not have any extra pain or discomfort in the last few minutes of their lives,'" Neuman writes. Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University and a prominent livestock expert, consulted with Bell & Evans in designing the system. Industry group the National Chicken Council maintains electric stunning systems are effective and humane. In England many processors use gas stunning, but don't label packages differently. "People don’t want to know too much," said Marc Cooper, a senior scientific manager in the farm animals department of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, in London. "It’s hard to sell humane killing as a concept." (Read more)

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