| "Stunning advice: U.K. processor Dean Foods takes a new step in its animal welfare policy," MeatNews.com, September 1, 2004.
The following write-up is based on the above-cited report with minor changes in wording for clarification. - UPC Editor
Deans Foods, one of the largest slaughterers of spent laying hens and birds used for breeding in the United Kingdom, has become the first plant in the world to introduce controlled atmosphere stunning (CAS) for these birds at its plant in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom.
The plant, which slaughters more than 7,000 birds per hour, already has a welfare record and operates as an RSPCA Freedom Food-approved poultry hauler and slaughterhouse. Deans has now chosen nitrogen-based controlled atmosphere stunning equipment from Anglia Autoflow, joining a group of major chicken and turkey slaughter companies now using the system. In its particular application, Deans opted for the Nitrogen/Argon-based system because, according to Mark Gaskin, divisional director at Deans Foods, "the Anglia Autoflow CAS system is . . . the most welfare friendly system of stunning poultry available." Both the RSPCA and the Humane Slaughter Association have inspected the system and approved it.
"We are also very impressed with the improved staff working conditions and the dramatic change in meat quality," Gaskin said. "We aimed for a certain level, but the actual results have far exceeded our expectations."
The processing - slaughtering - of spent hens and male and female birds used for breeding has always been difficult ("a challenging task"), as these adult birds struggle more strongly than the 5-6-week old baby chickens known as "broiler" chickens. The adult birds' "flightiness" and "liveliness" are of particular concern because being hung upside down by their legs on a conveyer belt causes them obvious suffering.
With the CAS system, live bird handling ends at the farm, eliminating this suffering. Nitrogen-based CAS also has other benefits, including cost savings throughout the initial stages of the process. Terry Fowler, a Deans Foods plant manager, said: "The introduction of CAS has helped our ability to control staff welfare, and makes working overtime and weekends far more acceptable to them. On the meat side, bruising and bone damage arising from hanging on are now a thing of the past. . . . We can now de-bone hens on line, maturing in just two hours rather than the 24 hours that we used to."
Ken Brown, a sales manager for Anglia Autoflow, said: "Deans Foods represented another first for Anglia Autoflow, a welfare friendly system of processing [slaughtering] spent hens and breeders. Deans installed the Easyload system a number of years ago, and the introduction of CAS is a natural progression. "
Anglia Autoflow Ltd
Tel: 44 1379 651031
Fax: 44 1379 652832
United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150