No Advantage to Controlled-atmosphere Chicken Stunning

Controlled-atmosphere stunning (CAS) offers no significant welfare advantage over conventional low-voltage electrical stunning in the commercial processing of chickens, according to a recent study that included Tyson Foods Inc. and Keystone Foods LLC, two suppliers of McDonald’s Corp. As in most parts of the world, there are no large-scale chicken producers in the U.S. that use the CAS method.

CAS uses a gas such as carbon dioxide to render chickens and other poultry unconscious and insensible to pain prior to slaughter. The conventional technique U.S. poultry processors employ uses low-level electrical stunning to do the same thing. Animal welfare experts have long had mixed views on which stunning practice is more humane.

Testing both practices in a commercial environment included evaluation of several factors, including animal welfare and handling, carcass yield and product quality.

Globally, McDonald’s continues to support its suppliers’ using both CAS and electrical stunning. The latest evaluation confirms that it is the proper thing to do at this time, Bob Langert, McDonald’s vice president of corporate social responsibility, told FeedStuffs.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. McDonald’s, Tyson, and Keystone Foods conducted this study. That’s like having Philip Morris conduct a study on the ill effects of tobacco on our health.

    McDonald’s tested CAS for 16 days, whereas these methods are already implemented and have been used for almost ten years in nearly 30% of European chicken slaughterhouses. These suppliers report lower labor costs, less instances of worker injury, and higher product quality and yield.

    The Feedstuffs quotes from the experts were outdated, and Grandin’s was a general claim about auditing slaughter. She wasn’t even referring to CAS specifically. However, in her new book, “Animals Make Us Human” (2009), Grandin says she supports the move toward controlled atmosphere systems. She notes that chickens experience intense fear in their last moments and that “chicken slaughter has to be changed” (230).

    McDonald’s, Tyson, and Keystone need to stop looking for a reason not to implement this new technology. CAS obviously works, and McDonald’s et al should be proactively researching how it will work for their needs, not doing halfhearted studies in an attempt to justify their refusal to upgrade slaughter technology here in the States.


  2. Posted by Chris on November 17, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    I think the real issue here is safely feeding a growing world population, not fighting the results of a study that disagrees with the views of those who prefer to not eat meat. Activist groups are fighting the meat industry over every issue, hoping to make the US a meat-free society. Meat is an important part of a balanced diet, and the best source of vitamin B12 comes from meat.

    This link shows our hunger issue in the United States is growing, over 11% since last year. That may not seem big to you but it is a big problem for one of the families who had no food for their children’s table.

    The activist groups who are fighting against the animal industry need to channel their money to help feed the hungry. Farmers work hard to feed our country, how many people do the activist groups feed?


  3. This is not a vegetarian issue – it is a welfare issue. Meat eater or not, we can agree that killing animals in the least painful, least stressful way possible should be standard of procedure.

    And if you are really concerned about world hunger, please note that it takes between 9 – 16 pounds of grain, corn, or soy to produce a pound of edible meat. We should be feeding that directly to people if we are so concerned about a food shortage. Same goes for water – why filter through animals when it can go directly to people? It takes far less water to produce plant based food.

    That’s just idealism talking, though. Realistically, people eat meat, and those people have an obligation to inflict the least amount of suffering on the animals that feed them. Controlled atmopshere killing of poultry is a viable solution to this issue that benefits suppliers, consumers, and animals. There’s no reason not to make such a logical change.


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