Archive for February, 2009

Scientists See No Advantage to Gas Killing For Chickens Over Conventional Stunning

February 13, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Monday, February 16, 2009
A statement by the National Chicken Council:

According to scientists, there is no advantage in terms of animal welfare for gas killing systems for poultry compared to the conventional stunning systems used by the United States chicken industry. The industry feels that while gas systems are worthy of further study, there is no proven reason yet to move away from conventional stunning systems.

Conventional stunning, as used by nearly all chicken processing plants in the United States, is both effective and humane. Chickens are made unconscious and insensible to pain before they are humanely killed.

Conventional stunning is based on the fact that animals can be put into an unconscious state by a low-level electrical current. This is usually facilitated by contact with water or an aqueous mist. Moments after being stunned, the birds are passed by a blade that opens an artery, resulting in rapid death. The entire process takes seconds rather than minutes.

There is some interest in this country and in Europe in systems that employ carbon dioxide or argon gas in a cabinet or chamber to displace oxygen and render the birds unconscious or even to kill them. These are sometimes called Controlled Atmosphere Killing (CAK) systems. About one-fifth of chicken processing plants in Europe use gas stun-to-kill systems. Only a few plants in the United States use these systems, however. Gas systems are more popular in Europe because electrical systems in Europe are required to actually kill the birds, not just stun them. A much higher level of electricity is needed to accomplish the kill step, and this sometimes results in discoloration of the meat and other product quality issues. The ability of gas systems to avoid these product quality problems is a main reason for the popularity of gas systems in Europe.

According to a statement issued by the American Association of Avian Pathologists and the American College of Poultry Veterinarians:

“Physiologic evaluation has failed to demonstrate any welfare advantage of any CAS system over other accepted poultry electrical stunning methods in the United States . . . Specifically, pulsed DC or AC low voltage stunning (the current U.S. industry standards) allows plants to achieve instant electro-anesthesia at rates exceeding 99.95 percent efficiency when properly applied, as denoted by EEG monitoring and physical examination . . . The alternative CAS systems, while viable, do not offer any known animal welfare advantages and may in fact be associated with poultry excitation and injury prior to loss of consciousness.”

While the use of gas is sometimes depicted as “putting chickens to sleep,” the process is not always a pleasant experience. As Dr. Bernard Rollin, a professor at Colorado State University and a noted writer on animal welfare, put it:

“There is no distress as severe as the feeling of not being able to breathe. This feeling of suffocation is not only a result of lack of oxygen but also the inability to blow off carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide drives respiration. Even though CAS creates unconsciousness, there must be a period when the animal feels a sense of suffocation. For this reason, I do not accept CAS as a humane method of euthanasia.”

Some poultry scientists are willing to accept gas stunning but say it offers no significant advantages over conventional processing in terms of humaneness.

“The main animal welfare issue with poultry slaughter is the ability to induce instantaneous insensibility,” said Dr. Yvonne Vizzier Thaxton, professor of poultry science at Mississippi State University. “The requirement is that all animals be insentient when slaughtered. Both electrical stunning and CAS fulfill this requirement when properly administered. We are continually examining potential technologies that may be equal to, or improve upon, those in current use.”

The stunning and slaughter process is covered by the National Chicken Council Animal Welfare Guidelines and Audit Checklist, which is widely followed within the industry. The Guidelines state:
“Stunning and killing equipment should be constantly monitored to insure proper functioning for humane processing. Birds should be insensible to pain when killed. A post-stun posture that includes arched neck and wings tucked in is visual evidence of an effective stun. Backup personnel should be employed at the killing station to euthanize manually any bird not properly killed by the equipment.”

The National Chicken Council represents integrated chicken producer-processors, the companies that produce, process and market chickens. Member companies of NCC account for approximately 95 percent of the chicken sold in the United States.

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Lampkin Butts Named General Chairman of 48th National Chicken Cooking Contest

February 9, 2009

nccc-standard-logoLampkin Butts, President and Chief Operating Officer of Sanderson Farms, Inc., Laurel, Mississippi, has been named General Chairman of the 48th National Chicken Cooking Contest (NCCC) by Michael Roberts, Chairman of the National Chicken Council, which sponsors the contest.

“The NCCC is one of the top competitive cooking events in the country,” said Roberts, who is President of the Food Products Business at Perdue Farms, Inc., Salisbury, Maryland. “Under Lampkin’s leadership, we will continue our tradition of a top-quality cooking competition that helps uncover some of the key trends in consumer cookery today.”

The NCCC cook-off will be held on May 2, 2009, at the Culinary Institute of America campus in San Antonio, Texas. Nine regional winners from around the country will compete for a grand prize of $50,000 and a “judge’s choice” award of $10,000. Each contestant also receives $1,000 as a regional winner.

The Texas Poultry Federation will serve as the host committee and provide volunteers to assist with the cookoff and host the contestants. The headquarters hotel for the event is the Omni La Mansión del Rio on the Riverwalk in downtown San Antonio.

The National Chicken Council represents integrated chicken producer-processors, the companies that produce, process, and market chickens. Member companies of NCC account for approximately 95 percent of the chicken sold in the United States.

National Chicken Council and Other Groups Oppose Boost in Ethanol Content of Gasoline

February 4, 2009

Ethanol is made from corn

Ethanol is made from corn

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Wednesday, February 4, 2009

WASHINGTON – February 4, 2009 — The National Chicken Council and other food and agribusiness groups are opposing a drive by the ethanol industry to raise the percentage of ethanol that can legally be added to motor gasoline, a limit now set at 10 percent to protect engine performance and fuel mileage.

“Our organizations strongly oppose proposals to increase the level at which ethanol can be blended into motor gasoline, and we urge you to subject these proposals to the most careful analysis,” 10 associations said in a letter to Lisa Jackson, who took office recently as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

In addition to NCC, groups signing the letter were American Bakers Association, American Beverage Association, American Frozen Food Institute, American Meat Institute, Grocery Manufacturers Association, National Turkey Federation, National Pork Producers Council, National Restaurant Association, and the Snack Food Association.

Ethanol industry leaders, facing slumping demand for their product, are pressing the federal government to raise the 10-percent limit, first established in 1982. According to The Washington Times on February 4, 2009, “On Tuesday, ethanol industry representatives told reporters and editors of The Washington Times that they plan to lobby hard to expand that amount to as much as 15 percent.”

The 10 percent limit was originally set because EPA ruled that gasoline with that much ethanol was “substantially equivalent” to pure gasoline. To go beyond 10 percent, according to EPA, ethanol backers must prove that a fuel mixture with more ethanol (a form of alcohol) and less gasoline will not harm engine performance. The owner’s manuals of many makes of automobiles specifically warn drivers against using higher blends of ethanol because moisture attracted by the alcohol can harm components in the fuel system. Toyota Motor Sales USA, Inc., announced last month a recall of more than 200,000 luxury Lexus vehicles because “some ethanol fuels with a low moisture content may corrode the internal surface of the fuel delivery pipes,” the company said.

Ethanol also delivers less vehicle mileage per gallon, which is hardly noticeable at the 10 percent level but reaches a 30-percent loss in mileage for “E-85” fuel, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline that can be used in “flex-fuel” vehicles, according to the National Science Foundation.

In the letter to Ms. Jackson, the food and agribusiness groups said they support the development of fuels derived from “cellulosic” sources and other types of biofuels. But EPA should hold the line on ethanol added to motor fuel until the agency completes a lifecycle assessment of the impacts of biofuels on climate change, as required by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the letter said.

The federal Department of Energy (DOE) and EPA should also complete an assessment of the impacts of intermediate blends on engines and certify that there are no performance, safety, or environmental concerns with raising the 10 percent blend before authorizing such an increase, the letter said.

“As you know, a five-fold increase in the production of conventional biofuels since 2000 — in combination with other factors, such as rising energy prices, poor weather, and global demand — has contributed to volatile commodity prices and a sustained period of commodity and food inflation,” the food and agribusiness groups wrote. “Nearly one-third of the 2008 corn crop is being diverted from food and feed to fuel. Investing in cellulosic and advanced biofuels is one way the administration can help ensure that we are not pitting our energy security policies against our food and climate security policies. We urge you to oppose proposals to increase the amount of biofuel into our fuel supplies until critical studies are completed and sustainable alternatives are commercially available.”

The National Chicken Council represents integrated chicken producer-processors, the companies that produce, process, and market chickens. Member companies of NCC account for approximately 95 percent of the chicken sold in the United States.

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Newsday finds no shortage on Long Island

February 1, 2009

A columnist for the Newsday newspaper called around and found no shortage of wings on Long Island. See the story here: Possible chicken-wing shortage new sign of tough times