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May 12 2015 5 tips to reduce bird stress

Quality, appearance and marketability of the end product are affected at every stage of the poultry processing line and this already starts when the farmer is catching the birds. There are many ways that contribute to a better quality of your end product, in this article we focus on the impact of bird stress on product quality.

Reduce bird stress

Stress can play an important role in the overall health of both human beings and animals. Bird stress is hard to measure but it surely affects the quality of the slaughtered bird in a negative way. Five tips to reduce bird stress in order to get the best end product:

  1. Feed withdrawal before catching at farm
    A farmer should remove the feed several hours before the birds will be cached. If you don’t remove the feed the birds will have full guts during catching which can cause heavy contamination of the transport container. It could also cause hygienically risks during vent cutting, opening and evisceration in the slaughtering process.

    Make sure the time between feed withdrawal and stunning of the birds doesn’t exceed 9-10 hours because otherwise the birds will become extremely hungry which causes stress. Extremely hungry birds will start eating litter which of course affects hygiene and quality of the bird.

  2. Train catchers to handle live birds
    The catching of live birds is a stressful event for the animals. During catching the farm should be dark in order to make the birds calm. Applying blue light is working well for both bird and catcher. The catcher should reduce the risk of bruising by picking up the birds gently and carrying them over the shortest possible distance to the crates or containers.

  3. Stick to legislation during transport
    When moving animals, you must transport them in a way that won’t cause them injury or unnecessary suffering. EU legislation for bird density in crates and containers governs animal welfare during transport. Be aware of local circumstances such as ambient temperature and humidity with the consequence of less birds per crate/container to retain the products quality.

  4. Optimize circumstances for birds while waiting to be processed
    While birds are waiting to be processed make sure the circumstances are favorable for the birds. Protect the birds sufficiently against sun, rain and wind. Provide adequate ventilation, avoid extreme high/low temperatures and humidity. Keep the birds in a quite environment so stress will be reduced to a low level.

  5. Stunning
    When the birds are stunned electrically it is recommendable to use breast support guides. These guides are in contact with the breasts of the live birds during transport from the hanging carrousel to the electric stunner. The guides have a relaxing effect on the birds, resulting in less wing flapping, reduced quality loss and improved animal welfare.

    If you are using gas stunning and it is necessary to unload the birds before gas stunning, the birds should be unloaded in a controlled way by means of chutes glided on to a belt. It is also possible to gas stun birds before unloading them of the containers, which significantly reduces the stress level of the birds and the risk of injuries.

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