The pre-slaughter phase is the last stage of meat production and for broiler chickens entails feed and water withdrawal, catching, loading, transportation and lairage. Major stressors during pre-slaughter include rough handling, overstocking, thermal stress, and prolonged feed and water withdrawal that can result in injuries, mortality, fear, and distress. The annual global economic loss could roughly vary from 143 million to 3 billion dollars for condemned parts due to injuries, and from 6 to 14 billion dollars for weight loss. Broiler welfare during catching could be improved by gentler mechanical catching and loading, alternative upright manual catching, training of catching crews, herding, and fitness-for-transport assessment. Improvements related to transport include using climate-controlled systems, reducing transport duration or making transportation redundant by on-farm slaughter. In order to reduce animal suffering and associated production losses during pre-slaughter, we recommend an approach with systematic monitoring of animal-based welfare indicators, feedback to responsible actors, and incentives to act when acceptable thresholds are (repeatedly) surpassed. Although this chapter focuses on broiler chickens, the laying hen pre-slaughter phase is briefly discussed as well.
Table of contents
2 Broiler chicken pre-slaughter phase and associated welfare concerns
3 Improving pre-slaughter welfare for broiler chickens
4 The pre-slaughter phase for laying hens
5 Conclusions and future trends
6 Where to look for further information