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DPI meeting fosters animal welfare talks
By NANCY L. SMITH
OCEAN CITY, Md. (Oct. 11, 2016) — Dr. Temple Grandin, professor of animal science at Colorado State University and holder of no fewer than 13 honorary doctorates, told attendees at the 51st National Meeting on Poultry Health, Processing and Live Production that complete transparency in poultry production is necessary.
“You’ve got to open up the door and show everything we are doing,” she said, noting that she has made video tours of beef, lamb and swine processing facilities, but no similar openness exists in the chicken industry. “Don’t try to hide it. It’s reality,” she said.
“You won’t want to be doing anything you don’t want people to see,” she said, noting that banning cell phones from processing plants does not work to keep operations from the light of day.
Grandin, who said she has designed the front end of all Cargill beef plants, is a noted designer of livestock handling facilities and expert on animal welfare. All animal welfare standards, she said, should be outcome-based and should be “things people in the field can actually do.” She encouraged improvements in poultry growing and processing facilities by identifying and auditing critical control points.
She discussed how consumer-driven changes in the poultry industry can have serious consequences. McDonald’s recent call for cage-free housing for layers has resulted in dirty air and double or triple mortality in some facilities, she said. McDonald’s buys 2 billion eggs annually. Fortune magazine reports that chicken and eggs account for 50 percent of the items on McDonald’s menu.
Antibiotic- and cage-free production requires stringent air quality monitoring, she said. Ammonia at 75 parts per million is a “fail” while 15 ppm is OK for chicks and 10 PPM is acceptable for humans. But she cautioned, “I have seen every kind of fake paperwork.”
She said the broiler industry faces challenges but problems with “broilers are easier than layers.”
She has studied is the efficacy of gas stunning systems in processing facilities. “I am not concerned with what gas is used,” she said, and is more interested to observe “what does the bird do before it loses the ability to stand.”
A lot of flapping, she explained, is not desirable.
Electric stunning, she said, works well, but the bird is “really stressed” by being handled and hung. “A little discomfort with gas is a whole lot less a problem than electric stunning,” she concluded.
Although she says she has an “industrial engineer mind,” she stressed, “You can’t fix everything with engineering. It is only half; the other half is management. You must measure the stuff you manage. If you don’t measure, you don’t manage.”
Grandin says she takes a middle-of-the-road approach to some issues, including antibiotic use.
“I don’t want welfare rights to cripple people so they can’t innovate,” she said.
She expressed reservations about genetic breeding programs and growth rates, “If a chick grows fast, will it have enough to ward off disease?”
She also is concerned about USDA Certified Organic standards and their effect on animal welfare. “I have seen too many sick animals,” she said.
European Union standards, she explained, allow the use of antibiotics for sick animals “with twice the withdrawal.”
She said she is “not concerned about (antibiotic residue in) the meat.” She said she sees more problems with antibiotics in wastewater because wastewater treatment “doesn’t take everything out.”
In addition to her animal welfare work, Grandin, who is autistic, is well-known for her writing and lecturing on the subject.
Grandin’s presentation was sponsored by Perdue Foods LLC.