Kosher Box Operation, Design, and Cutting Technique will Affect the Time Required for Cattle to Lose Consciousness

by Temple Grandin
Department of Animal Science
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado 80523

(Updated April 2014)

To insure an acceptable level of animal welfare, cattle should become unconscious and collapse quickly after kosher slaughter. Target 90% or more collapse within 30 seconds. Data collected in five kosher plants in several different countries indicated that improvements in procedures will greatly shorten the interval between the cut and loss of consciousness. All five plants had an upright kosher restraint box that held the animal in a standing position. The time in seconds was recorded from the end of the cut until the eyes rolled back and the animal started to collapse.

Plant 1. Time Until Eye Rollback and Collapse After Kosher Slaughter
Group 1 Group 2 Group 3
Average time in seconds 15 35 22
Shortest time 13 14 11
Longest time 18 61 38
Number of cattle 9 17 23
Percentage that collapsed within 30 seconds 100% 35% 91%

Plant 1 had a good upright box that was long enough so that long cattle would not be pushed up too hard against the front of the box. Pushing the animalís chest up against the front of the box will restrict blood flow. It was standard practice in this plant to totally release the head holder belly lift and rear pusher gate immediately after the animal was cut. This will promote bleeding.

Plant 1, Group 1: Excellent box operator and cutting technique
Plant 1, Group 2: Cutting done by a different rabbi than Group 1
Plant 1, Group 3: Released pressure from the head holder, belly lift and rear pusher more quickly than Group 2

Plant 2. Time Until Eye Rollback and Collapse After Kosher Slaughter
Group 1 Group 2
Average time in seconds 17 33
Shortest time 10 15
Longest time 38 120
Number of cattle 17 19
Percentage that collapsed within 30 seconds 94% 68%

Plant 2 had a good box that fit the cattle. Group 1 had shorter collapse times because pressure on the animalís body from the head holder, rear pusher gate and belly lift was released more quickly.

Plant 3. Time Until Eye Rollback and Collapse After Kosher Slaughter
Group 1 Group 2
Average time in seconds 15 16
Shortest time 8 10
Longest time 35 25
Number of cattle 13 21
Percentage that collapsed within 30 seconds 92% 100%

Plant 3 was doing everything right. They had an excellent upright box and both the box operator and the schohets had worked on perfecting the details of box operation and cutting. The schohets made deep cuts with a swift stroke with very little sawing motion. The total time that the animal was held tightly fully restrained in the box was under 10 seconds. Immediately after the cut, the head holder and rear pusher were released, and the animal was removed from the box. Plant 3 is one of the few plants that perform no second cut after the kosher cut. This plant has a very low level of blood splash.

Plant 4. Time Until Eye Rollback and Collapse After Kosher Slaughter
Group 1
Average time in seconds 29
Shortest time 13
Longest time 89
Number of cattle 25
Percentage that collapsed within 30 seconds 72%

Plant 4 had an excellent schohet, but there were problems with the design of their box. It was too short for long cattle which caused vocalization (bellow) in 30% of the cattle. They did not perform the total release procedure that has been successfully used in other plants because the box was too short to release the rear pusher gate. The head holder was released immediately after the cut.

Plant 5. Time Until Eye Rollback and Collapse After Kosher Slaughter
Group 1 Group 2
Average time in seconds 34 31
Shortest time 14 14
Longest time 120 95
Number of cattle 7 21
Percentage that collapsed within 30 seconds 77% 55%

In plant 5, cattle were held in the box too long while a second cut was being done in the box. Their box also held the animal too tightly and applied excessive pressure.

Plant 6: Time to loss of Corneal Reflex with Improved Operation of an Upright Restrainer
Before Modification After Modification
90 seconds to loss of corneal reflex 30 to 50 seconds to loss of corneal reflex. Collpase time 25 seconds.

In plant 6, the following improvements were made:

  1. Reduce pressure applied by a head holder to reduce constriction of the throat, and
  2. Reduce pressure on the animal's throat.

Note: Corneal reflex occurs after the animal has collapsed.

Recommendations to shorten the interval between cutting and loss of sensibility. These methods will also reduce bloodsplash damage in the meat (Grandin 2010).

  1. Deep cuts
  2. Rapid swift knife stroke with a minimum of sawing motions.
  3. Minimize the time that the animal is fully restrained by the head holder, belly lift, and rear pusher. Under 10 seconds is ideal.
  4. Restrict travel of the belly lift so that it does not lift the animal off the floor.
  5. Immediately after the cut, COMPLETELY release the belly lift, rear pusher gate, and loosen the head holder. See paper titled "Recommendations to facilitate onset of rapid insensibility after Kosher or Halal religious slaughter" for more information.
  6. Keep cattle calm and reduce use of the electric prod. Calm cattle bleed out faster.
  7. Install non-slip flooring in the box and lead up chute. Cattle panic when they slip.
  8. The percentage of cattle vocalizing (bellow or moo) should be 5% or less. Vocalizing cattle are stressed.
  9. Avoid excessive pressure applied by the rear pusher gate that compresses the animalís chest against the front of the box.
  10. If the neck opening is too tight, it may restrict bleed out.

Gregory et al (2010) have reported very similar results when good techniques were used. In this study, 88% of the cattle collapsed within 30 seconds and a few cattle had prolonged periods of sensibility. This is similar to our observation. Cattle take longer to lose sensibility compared to sheep and goats. Sheep will lose consciousness and become insensible within 2 to 14 seconds (Gregory and Wotton 1984, Blackmore 1984). Time to eye rollback can also be used to determine onset of unconsciousness.

When a rotating box is used, scoring of onset of unconsciousness can be determined by observing the animal's response to waving a hand within 15 cm (6 in) of it's eye. Any response such as natural blinking, flinching, vocalization, or kicking is a sign that the animal is still conscious. Another indicator of consciousness is eye tracking when a hand is moved slowly past the eye (H. Anil personal communication, 2010). When the eyes roll back this is another indicator of loss of consciousness.


Blackmore, D.K. 1984. Differences in behavior between sheep and cattle during slaughter. Research in Veterinary Science. 37:223-226.

Grandin, T. 2010. Improving Animal Welfare: A Practical Approach. CABI Publishing, UK.

Gregory, N.G. and Wotton, S.B. 1984a. Sheep slaughtering procedures - II: Time to loss of brain responsiveness after exsanguination or cardiac arrest. British Veterinary Journal. 140:354-260.

Gregory, N.G., Fielding, H.R., von Wenzlawowicz, M., and von Hollenben, K. 2010.Time to collapse following slaughter without stunning. Meat Science. 85:66-69.

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