New poultry stunning rules may affect quality, warns Dutch firm

By Carmen Paun, Brussels

- Last updated on GMT

New poultry stunning rules may affect quality, warns Dutch firm

Related tags Eu meat industry European union Poultry

New European Union (EU) rules on animal welfare, applicable from January 2013, might affect the quality of EU-made poultry meat, a spokesman for a major Dutch poultry producer has told an international conference in Brussels on the protection of animals in slaughterhouses.

David Barker, of Netherlands-based Marel Stork Poultry Processing, was speaking last Wednesday at a conference organised by the European Commission directorate general for health and consumers (DG SANCO), the EU’s current president Cyprus, and EU meat industry association the UECBV.

“By and large, the harder the stun, the higher the amperage, the greater the risk of picking up [blood spots] on your breast fillet,”​ said Barker. The level of stunning of chicken imposed by the regulation, which is of 150 milli-amps (mA) at a frequency of 200 to 400 Hz, is higher than currently used in some southern EU countries. This level is part of the new requirements for waterbath stunning equipment imposed by EU regulation 1099/2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing.

"Whether the blood spots will reduce the poultry meat quality in the end depends on consumer sensitivity, Barker explained. “Some sectors are more sensitive to blood spots than others,”​ he added.

According to the new rules, shackle lines in poultry slaughterhouses should be designed so that chickens will not hang conscious for more than one minute, while ducks, geese and turkeys shall not remain hung conscious longer than two minutes, the regulation states.

“It’s a very clear recommendation, but it packs a punch,”​ said Barker. He explained that this could cause serious problems for turkey processors, who have birds brought in fixed cages, since it takes more than two minutes to unload the birds from the trucks on to the line.

According to him, significant investment into processes, slaughter lines, layout and size of the slaughterhouses might be needed for turkey processors to be able to comply with this measure.

Asked by​ whether EU countries are ready to implement the rules next year, a DG SANCO director Bernard Van Goethem said it was too early to say for sure. Some member states have not reacted comprehensively to Commission questions on the matter.

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