LOUISVILLE, Ky. –JBS USA Pork, a unit of JBS SA, is switching to CO2 stunning of hogs at its Louisville plant. The company held meetings with community members to discuss the change in addition to construction plans needed to accommodate a new building and equipment at the site.

The company plans to replace its electric stunning lines with CO2 rooms because it is a more humane method of stunning. JBS operates pork processing facilities in Worthington, Minnesota; Marshalltown and Ottumwa, Iowa and Beardstown, Illinois.

“The JBS Louisville pork facility, consistent with industry trends, has proposed a transition from electric stunning to CO2 or controlled atmosphere stunning, as a more humane method of euthanasia,” the company said in a statement to MEAT+POULTRY. “Production capacity at the facility will not be increased.

“Controlled atmosphere stunning technology limits animal stress and discomfort, while also improving team member safety. The company has successfully utilized this technology at all of our other JBS pork facilities with positive results on animal well-being and product quality. We have sought a permit modification to accommodate the necessary space for a new building and equipment, however this project has no impact on pork production capacity.”

In a post on her website, Dr. Temple Grandin, long-time MEAT+POULTRY columnist, writes that CO2 stunning has been controversial because insensibility isn’t instantaneous. However, one advantage of CO2 stunning is that handling pigs is easier. However, pigs attempting to escape the chamber upon exposure to the gas is unacceptable.

“…CO2 systems can be designed so that lining pigs up in single file races can be eliminated,” Grandin writes. “The pigs are moved into the CO2 chamber in groups of five. Handling pigs in groups makes quiet handling easier. Whereas cattle and sheep are animals that will naturally walk in single file, pigs resist lining up in a single file race.

“In evaluating CO2 from a welfare perspective, one should look at the whole system,” Grandin continued. “Eliminating single file races provides a welfare advantage and the tradeoff may be some unpleasantness during anesthesia induction. However, it is the author’s opinion that pigs attempting to escape from the container when they first contact the gas is not acceptable and genetic factors should be evaluated.”