Updated August 2017
The North American Meat Institute (2017) standard for vocalization in restraint devices where a head holder is used is 5% of the cattle. Vocalization is a sensitive indication of animal distress, when it occurs in direct response to an aversive event such as electric prods, slipping, excessive pressure from a restraint device, missed stuns, pinching or falling.
There has been concern that kosher plants may have difficulty complying with the standard. Data that has been collected from 1996 through 2005 indicates that kosher plants can reach the vocalization standard. There has been much progress. I remember my early experiences observing shackling and hoisting of live cattle in a plant that kosher slaughtered 150 cattle per hour. The animals were forced into a box with a slanted floor that caused 100% of them to fall down. Loud bellowing was continuous and never stopped. In 1991, before formal collection of vocalization data, I was hired to tear out the cruel shackling hoist system and replace it with restraining boxes where the cattle stood upright. I designed the hydraulic and pneumatic controls on the boxes so that all parts of the restrainer moved smoothly and the operator could precisely control the amount of pressure applied to the animal. I spent hours operating the box and 70% of the cattle had no reaction at all to the head holder. No vocalization data was collected because this was before I developed vocalization scoring. However, I estimate that the vocalization score was under 5% in this Glatt kosher plant.
|Plant #||Audit #||Score||Notes|
|1||1st||5.6%||Mostly due to electric prods|
|2||1st||1%||Brand new head holder|
|2nd||9%||Malfunctioning controls which were partially broken|
|3||1st||6%||Mostly due to electric prods|
|4||1st||32%||Box too short for the animals, exerted excessive pressure|
|2nd||5%||Built new pusher gate, no electric prods|
|5||1st||5%||0% in head holder, vocalization due to electric prods|
|6||1st||4%||Over 300 cattle scored|
|7||1st||7%||Mostly due to electric prods|
|8||1st||7%||Sharp corners on head holders|
(Europe Halal Rotating Box)
|1st||10% (estimate)||Occurred when the head holder was applied. Rotation did NOT cause vocalization. Problems with the head holder are correctable and this box is capable of reaching the 5% standard|
|11 (Rotating Box)||3rd or 4th||2%||Employee training and installation of pressure limiting devices made this good score possible|
|12 (Upright Box)||1st||10%|
|2nd||1.5%||Minor modifications made a big improvement:
1. Installed non-slip floor
2. Modified Headholder
3. Eliminated pinch point on the tailgate
4. Stopped metal rattling
5. Installed smoother operating valve on the tailgate to stop sudden jerky motion
When corrective actions were taken in plants tha twere being audited by a large beef buyin customer, the percentage of cattle vocalizing was greatly reduced.
In all cases where the vocalization score exceeded the 5% limit there was an easy way to correct the problem such as sharp edges, malfunctioning controls, excessive pressure, or electric prods. In plant 2 the vocalization score greatly increased because the controls were partially broken and the head holder became very difficult to operate. In the plant with the very high 32% vocalization score (plant 4), a new pusher gate reduced the vocalization score to 5%.
Careful operation of a kosher restraint box will greatly reduce damaging blood spotting in the meat. In 1991 I developed a kosher box which exerted less pressure and blood splashing was greatly reduced. When a skilled employee ran the box the percentage of blood splashed cattle ranged from 3.5% to 5%. The cattle were kept calm, and the pusher gate was released immediately after the cut. More recent observations indicate that the best way to reduce blood splash and facilitate bleed-out is to completely release both the head holder and the rear pusher gate immediately after the cut.
Box operation steps to reduce blood splash:
Grandin, T. (2012). Developing measures to audit welfare of cattle and pigs at slaughter. Animal Welfare. 21:351-356.
Grandin, T. (1998). The feasibility of using vocalization scoring as an indicator of poor welfare during slaughter. Applied Animal Behavior Science. 56:121-128.
Hayes, et al. (2015). The relationship between preharvest stress and carcass characteristics of beef heifers that qualified for Kosher designation. Meat Science. 100:134-136.
NAMI (2017). Recommended Animal Handling Guidelines and Audit Guide. North American Meat Institute, Washington, D.C. NAMI Recommended Animal Handling Guidelines and Audit Guide
Velarde et al. (2014). Religious slaugher: Evaluation of current practices in selected countried. Meat Science. 96:278-287.
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