The cage inspection area allows stunned birds left in the cage after unloading to be removed manually.

Benefits and ROI

The benefits of CAS for Miller Poultry spread across the operation from animal welfare to the employees and in product quality. Whether it comes directly in the form of an increase in the bottom line, or happier employees and chickens, CAS fits with Miller Poultry’s overall business goals and mission.

“The Bright/Humane-Aire stunning system allows the chickens to be rendered unconscious in the module in which they are transported from the farm to the processing plant,” Diehl says. “The chickens are then removed from the module and shackled while being unconscious unlike conventional stunning practices. This greatly improves the environment of the shackling area for employees as the room no longer needs to be darkened and the chickens are not resisting being picked up and shackled causing less dust in the area.”

By moving chickens through the CAS process while still in cages, shackling live birds is eliminated. This lowers the stress on birds significantly and increases yields.

“We feel we’ve been very successful in enhancing and improving animal welfare,” Geertman says. However, some processors’ animal welfare practices are respectable and pass audits with traditional handling. For these companies the investment in CAS may not be warranted, but for the bottom line, a greater yield means more high-quality, sellable product.

Geertman says with chicken processing in particular, the greatest portion of the return on investment comes in the larger yields of quality meat. Diehl says, “CAS stunning allows for a more consistent bleed out with less product damage including broken bones and blood spots in the muscle which decreases the amount of trimming needed, ultimately increasing yield and available grade A whole chickens for consumption.”

This is where chicken processors see the greatest advantage regarding the investment in a CAS system.

“At the end of the day our goal is to make the system from farm to shackle sustainable with an ROI, to make is easier for the processors to invest,” Geertman says.