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Tighter Welfare Checks on Livestock at Slaughterhouses Proposed

27 December 2013

EU - Slaughterhouse staff could be forced to carry out more checks of livestock to ensure the animals are not conscious after stunning, according to new scientific studies carried out for the European Food Safety Authority.

The slaughterhouse staff performing stunning, shackling, hoisting and/or bleeding will have to check all the animals and confirm that they are not conscious, if recommendations for a European Food Safety Authority scientific opinion are ratified.

For the animal welfare officer, who has the overall responsibility for animal welfare, a mathematical model for the sampling protocols has been proposed, giving some allowance to set the sample size of animals that he/she needs to check at a given throughput rate (total number of animals slaughtered in the slaughterhouses) and tolerance level (number of potential failures—animals that are conscious after stunning and animals that are not unconscious or not dead after slaughter without stunning).

The model can also be applied to estimate threshold failure rate at a chosen throughput rate and sample size.

Finally, different risk factors and scenarios are proposed to define a ‘normal’ or a ‘reinforced’ monitoring protocol, according to the needs of the slaughterhouse.

These measures are included in a scientific opinion which puts forward “toolboxes of welfare indicators” for developing monitoring procedures at slaughterhouses for pigs, sheep and goats and poultry.

Three separate scientific opinions have been produced by the Scientific Committee/Scientific Panel of EFSA for the European Commission to cover the pig sector, goats and sheep and poultry.

Pigs

For pigs stunned with the head-only electrical method or carbon dioxide at high concentration, the opinion proposes welfare indicators together with their corresponding outcomes of consciousness, unconsciousness or death.

The opinion proposes a toolbox of indicators and the outcomes to be used to assess consciousness in pigs at three key stages of monitoring:
(a) after stunning and during shackling and hoisting,
(b) during sticking and
(c) during bleeding.

Various activities — including a systematic literature review, an online survey and stakeholders’ and hearing experts’ meetings — were conducted to gather information about specificity, sensitivity and feasibility of the indicators that are to be included in the toolboxes for monitoring welfare.

On the basis of information gathered during these activities, a methodology was developed to select the most appropriate indicators that could be used in the monitoring procedures.

The frequency of checking differs according to the role of each person with responsibility for ensuring animal welfare at slaughter.

The personnel performing stunning, shackling, hoisting and/or bleeding will have to check all the animals and confirm that they are not conscious following stunning.

For the animal welfare officer, who has the overall responsibility for animal welfare, a mathematical model for the sampling protocols is proposed, giving some allowance to set the sample size of animals that he/she needs to check at a given throughput rate (total number of animals slaughtered in the slaughterhouses) and tolerance level (number of potential failures—animals that are conscious after stunning; animals that are not unconscious or not dead after slaughter without stunning).

The model can also be applied to estimate threshold failure rate at a chosen throughput rate and sample size.

Finally, different risk factors and scenarios are proposed to define a ‘normal’ or a ‘reinforced’ monitoring protocol, according to the needs of the slaughterhouse.

A similar set of protocols has been drawn up for the other livestock sectors.

Poultry

For poultry, the scientific opinion proposes toolboxes of welfare indicators, and their corresponding outcomes of consciousness, unconsciousness or death, for developing monitoring procedures at slaughterhouses for poultry stunned using electrical waterbaths and gas mixtures or slaughtered without stunning.

For waterbath stunning, the opinion proposes a toolbox of indicators for assessing consciousness in poultry at two key stages of monitoring:

(a) between the exit from the waterbath stunner and neck cutting and
(b) during bleeding.

For gas stunning, the opinion proposes a toolbox of indicators for assessing consciousness in poultry at two key stages of monitoring:

(a) during shackling and
(b) during bleeding.

For slaughter without stunning, a toolbox is proposed for confirming death prior to entering scald tanks.

Sheep and Goats

For sheep and goats in the case of slaughter with head-only electrical stunning, the opinion proposes a toolbox to assess consciousness at three key stages of monitoring:
(a) after electrical stunning and during shackling and hoisting,
(b) during neck cutting and
(c) during bleeding.

For slaughter without stunning, another toolbox is proposed for:

(a) assessing unconsciousness before releasing the animals from restraint, and
(b) confirming death before carcase dressing begins.

 

Chris Harris

Chris Harris

Top image via Shutterstock



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