Even if you don’t read The New York Times, by now you’ve probably heard that we are again moving ‘ahead of the curve’… this time in farm animal welfare, by revolutionizing the way we begin to process our birds.
I was interviewed by The New York Times for their Oct. 22 front page article, New Way to Help Chickens Cross to Other Side, that focused on our new slow induction anesthesia system, which uses a CO2 gas to gently put the birds to sleep before they are processed.
To really understand why our new process is so important, you have to know a little about how live chickens are processed. The chickens are brought to a dimly lit area where workers pick them up by their legs and hang them upside down. A conveyor carries the birds to a unit that uses a mild electric shock to make them unconscious, and then to a machine that kills them.
Our new system is a gentle, stress-free, and much more humane way to process chickens. It works on the birds in the same way anesthesia works on a person before going into surgery. There’s no stress or panicked wing flapping that can injure the birds or our workers.
I’ve been researching the best way to do this and for the past 15 years. I’ve toured many European processing plants and analyzed their controlled-atmosphere stunning systems. I believe the custom-built system we’ve developed is much better. Their systems are designed to kill the birds, not put them to sleep. They can cut-off the birds of oxygen too quickly, which may cause them to suffer.
Earlier this year, Monica and I spent my birthday in Colorado and met with Temple Grandin. As a leading authority in livestock handling facilities, I wanted to get her input before we started construction. After showing her videos of the process and discussing our plans, she agreed, “This will be a big step forward for chicken welfare.”
For the last year, we have worked closely with PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) on this project. Although they would like everyone to be vegan, even they recognize it’s not going to happen. However, they share our compassion for farm animal welfare, and PETA applauds our efforts to raise our chickens with the best quality of life.
In my next entry, I’ll talk more about how this $3 million upgrade to our process will result in higher quality meat for your dinner table.