Feature: Welfare improvements recognised
The Danish Meat Research Institute received a prestigious award from the Humane Slaughter Association in recognition of their longstanding contribution to the improvement of the welfare of livestock prior to slaughter.
At the annual conference held by the Humane Slaughter Association in Zagreb during July, the work of the Danish Meat Research Institute (DMRI) was recognised for its achievement in delivering “significant advances in the humane slaughter of livestock”.
The Humane Slaughter Association is a leading campaigning organisation, dedicated to raising standards in the welfare of livestock at markets during transport and slaughter, through scientific advances, education and training.
Susanne Støier, DMRI Director, receives the HSA Award.
On receiving the award, the Director of Meat Technology at the DMRI, Susanne Støier, said “We are very honoured to receive the HSA award. Our work is based on the combination of insight into animal behaviour, technical knowledge and close cooperation with the abattoirs. We advise the meat industry on how to improve standards of animal welfare by implementing new systems and procedures.”
“Therefore, success is not limited to the development of animal friendly systems but must also include their practical implementation in the meat industry. Equipment developed by DMRI has not only improved animal welfare but has also significantly improved meat quality, productivity and working conditions.”
DMRI has a longstanding track record in bringing new systems and technology to the meat industry both in Denmark and internationally.
The DMRI has made detailed recommendations for the modification of vehicles used for transporting animals, including the introduction of ‘forced ventilation’ and non-slip flooring. Transport vehicles and handling routines based on DMRI guidelines have played a major part in making more considerate transport of animals a reality.
Modern pig transport.
Handling of pigs in groups
In the 1990s, DMRI developed and implemented an animal handling system based on small groups of around 15 pigs that were kept together all the way from loading on the transport vehicle to the point of stunning in the abattoir. Pigs are social animals and like to stay together in groups. By using this principle, the stress level of the pigs is significantly reduced compared with traditional systems with large groups.
Group of pigs in the lairage.
DMRI has patented a group-based CO2 stunning system, which is now installed in many abattoirs around the world. In order to minimise human intervention and eliminate the use of force, the principle of ‘nudging’ the animals to move them through the lairage has been adopted, alongside many other refinements, such as having light in front of the animals and a small elevation angle of the floor to encourage groups of pigs to move forward of their own free-will. The reduction in stress levels and noise in the lairage are clear proof of better welfare being achieved, as well as improvements in meat quality.
‘Sticking’ or the killing of the pig is a manual process, and there remains a risk that a pig may not be ‘stuck’ properly. To minimise the risk, the DMRI have developed a ‘vision-based’ system to verify that the pigs are properly ‘stuck’ after stunning. The ‘VisStick’ system has now been installed at most slaughter lines in Denmark and at a number of plants in other Nordic countries.