Players in the poultry processing industry understand the benefits of animal welfare on several levels. From ethics to increasing the bottom line, innovations concerning the health and wellness of birds means better products for consumers, profits for producers and a more pleasant existence for animals.
Temple Grandin, Ph.D., and professor of Animal Sciences at Colorado State Univ., updated a paper in 2013 evaluating humane handling and animal welfare via controlled atmosphere stunning (CAS). While listing the pros and cons of CAS on chickens and other poultry, Grandin writes, “It is my opinion that overall bird welfare would be improved with gas stunning even if there is some discomfort before the bird loses consciousness.”
CAS represents the latest application in getting birds from the farm to the shackle with the least possible amount of stress and trauma. Recently Midway Machine Technologies, Zeeland, Michigan, and Nacogdoches, Texas-based Bright Coop Inc., worked together with Miller Poultry in Orland, Indiana, to install a Bright Coop/Humane-Aire CAS system at Miller Poultry’s processing plant. The system was developed based on Grandin’s paper.
The first step in humanely handling chickens starts with transferring birds from the floor of the house to cages for transportation. Eliminating the “handling” of birds by humans as much as possible is the best way to ensure the lowest amount of stress possible. Terry Geertman, co-owner, Midway Machine Technologies, says partnering with Bright Coop was a natural fit due to Bright Coop’s years in the industry.
“Bright Coop has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the live handling of the birds from the farm to the shackle line, which is important to the success of the system,” Geertman says. “They were involved with each step of the design process, loading of the birds, to the transportation, and handling the birds at the processing plant. The equipment used to handle the cages and birds was fully redesigned from a manual operation to a fully automated system.”
Grandin commended Bright Coop on its efforts in a Nov. 4, 2017, letter to engineering manager, Francois Roux, after seeing a system in the field. The letter stated, “The installation at the processing plant I visited in the United States was excellent. Moving the entire Bright Coop through the controlled atmosphere stunning eliminates stressful shackling of live birds. The system was well designed and will be easy to maintain.”
Midway Machine provided its Humane-Aire technology developed and proven in the turkey industry and combined it with Bright Coop’s many years of proven chicken handling and transportation technology.