2003 American Meat Institute Animal Handling and Stunning Conference

2002 Restaurant Audits of Stunning and Handling in Federally Inspected Beef and Pork Slaughter Plants

Summary of Audit Results for 2002

A total of 57 beef plants and 23 pork plants were audited by four different auditing systems. These systems were comprised of either third party or first party auditors from McDonalds, Wendys, Burger King or T. Grandin. The scores were averaged for plants that received more than one audit. Data on the tables attached to this summary indicated that the plants are maintaining the excellent standards they have had since auditing started in 1999.

Ninety five percent of the plants that have been audited during the last four years rendered 100% of the cattle insensible. The results were similar in pork, with 95% of the plants experienced with audits rendering 100% of the pigs insensible. The problem area in both beef and pork was the new plants that had their first audit in 2002. There were four new beef plants and one new pork plant. Out of these 5 new plants, 4 out of 5 failed on either insensibility or stunning. Two of the beef plants had serious problem scores of under 90% stunned on the first shot. The management in these new plants did not know what was expected.

In previous years, most problems with excessive use of electric prods were due to equipment problems. The experienced plants have corrected most equipment problems. Cattle vocalization and electric prod use scores were excellent in 2002 with an average only 2% of the cattle vocalizing. In 1996 before the audit programs started, the average vocalization percentage was 8%. Eighty-four percent of the beef plants and 78% of the pork plants moved 75% or more of the animals without an electric prod.

There were nine beef plants (16%) that had not acceptable serious problem scores for electric prod use. One plant had replaced electric prods with abusive hitting and tail twisting. With the exception of one plant, all of these plants failed due to management and employee supervision problems. Only one plant had an obvious equipment problem that caused enough balking to elevate its electric prod score. In conclusion, constant vigilance will be required to maintain excellent performance. The bottom line is that welfare measures are best in plants that have good internal welfare auditing. The main problem areas which still need to be addressed are: 1) educating the plants that are new to auditing, 2) more management attention to auditing and 3) reducing the numbers of stressor non-ambulatory pigs. The pork producers must address and correct increased problems with stressor non-ambulatory pigs and hard to handle pigs.

Table 1. Captive bolt stunning in 57 beef plants in the U.S. combined audit scores from four different audit systems. Audit scores were averaged in plants that had more than one audit.
Percentage of cattle stunned with one shot Number of Plants Percentage of Plants Line Speed Range
Excellent 99 to 100% 22 38% 11 to 390/hr
Acceptable 98 to 95% 32 56% 50 to 390/hr
Not Acceptable 94 to 90% 1 2% Under 75/hr
Serious problem < 90% 2 4% Under 75/hr
26 plants (48%) were audited more than once. The 3 plants that had either not acceptable scores or serious problem scores were all new plants that had their first audit. They did know what was expected. Stunner maintenance and employee training were problems in these plants.

Table 2. Insensibility on the bleedrail. All cattle re re-stunned prior to skinning or other slaughter procedures.
Percentage of cattle rendered insensible prior to hoisting Number of Plants Percentage of Plants
100% insensible (pass) 54 95%
Less than 100% insensible (serious problem) 3 5%
Two plants that failed on insensibility were new plants that had their first audit. They did not know what was expected. The third failing plant was an experienced plant that had poor internal systems for monitoring animal welfare.

Table 3A. Percentage of cattle vocalizing in 57 U.S. beef plants. Combined audits from four different auditing systems. Scores were averaged in plants with more than one audit.
Percentage Vocalizing Number of Plants Percentage of Plants
Excellent 0 to 1% 24 42%
Acceptable 2 to 3% 28 49%
Borderline acceptable 4 to 5% 3 5%
Not acceptable 6 to 10% 2 4%
Serious problem over 10% 0 0%

Table 3B. Comparison of USDA Survey Vocalization percentages to 2002 vocalization percentages.
1996 Before Restaurant Auditing (8 plants) 2002 after 4 years of restaurant auditing (52 plants)
Average Score 8% 2%
Worst Plant Score 35% 6%

Table 4. Effect of air flowing blowing in the faces of approaching cattle on vocalization score at the restrainer entrance.
Airflow Percentage of cattle vocalizing due to balking and increased electric prod use
No air movement towards the cattle 0%
Air blowing towards the cattle 4.5%
Cattle movement into the restrainer was improved by adjusting the ventilation system to prevent air blowing out through the restrainer entrance.

Table 5. Electric prod use in 57 beef plants. Scores were averaged in plants that were audited more than once.
Percentage of cattle electric prodded Number of plants Percentage of plants
0% - Excellent 7 12%
5% or less - Excellent 10 17%
6 to 25% - Acceptable 31 53%
26 to 50% - Not Acceptable 4 8%
Over 50% - Serious Problem 4 8%
Plants that replaced electric prods with abusive methods 1 2%
The one plant that replaced electric prods with abusive driving methods had a 2% electric prod score but they were twisting animal’s tails, poking them with sharp sticks and dropping gates on them. They had passing scores but failed due to animal abuse.

Table 6. Reasons for excessive electric prod use in 8 plants that received a score below the acceptable range.
Plant number Percentage of cattle prodded with an electric prod Reason for excessive use
1 99% Employees not supervised
2 44% Cattle balk at multi-colored slats on a conveyor restrainer
3 40% Overloaded crowd pen moved groups of cattle that were too large
4 80% Employees not supervised
5 82% Employees not supervised or understaffed
6 91% Employees not supervised
7 42% New plant did not know what the standard was
8 32% New plant did not know what the standard was
9 Abusive handling used to replace electric prod Management has an attitude problem

Table 7. Problems observed at four small plants that joined the restaurant system in 2002 and had their first audit.
New plant number Percentage of cattle stunned on first shot Insensibility Vocalization percentage Electric prod percentage
1 86% (fail) Passed 0% 10%
2 94% (not acceptable) Fail 3% 42%
3 19% (fail) Fail 0% 6%
4 98% (pass) Passed 2% 8%
These plants did not know what the standards were. Bad practices had become normal in 3 out 4 of the new small plants that entered the restaurant audit system this year. One of these plants passed on all the measures.

Table 8. Comparison between normal feed cattle and hard to handle cattle on electric prod use.
Type of cattle Percentage of cattle where an electric prod was required to move them into a restrainer
Normal feedlot cattle 8%
Hard to drive cattle 32%
Objective scoring can be used to pinpoint problem cattle that cause welfare, safety and meat quality problems.

Table 9. Electric stunner wand placement in 20 pork slaughter plants for passage of electric current through the brain. Data merged from four different auditing systems.
Percentage of pigs with correct wand placement Number of plants Percentage of plants
100% correct placement - Excellent 16 80%
99% correct placement - Acceptable 3 15%
98 to 95% correct placement - Not acceptable 1 5%

Table 10. Electric stunner “hot wanding” where the wand is emerged before it fully contacts the pigs. Scored yes if pig squeals when the wand is applied.
Percentage of pigs hot wanded Number of plants Percentage of plants
0% hot wanding - Excellent 16 89%
1% hot wanded - Acceptable 2 11%
2 to 3% - Not Acceptable 0 0%
4% or more – Serious Problems 0 0%

Table 11. Insensibility on the bleed rail for 23 pork slaughter plants. All pigs were restunned prior to scalding.
Percentage of pigs rendered insensible prior to hoisting Number of plants Percentage of plants
100% insensible – Pass 21 86%
Less than 100% insensible – Serious Problem 2 14%
1. The two plants that used CO2 rendered 100% of the pigs insensible.
2. One plant failed to render all the pigs insensible because they had the wrong type of stunning equipment for heavy 280 lb. (127 kg) pigs. Later in the year this plant changed their equipment and passed two subsequent audits.
3. The second plant that failed used captive bolt stunning on sows. The stunner was malfunctioning due to poor maintenance. This plant was a new plant that had their first audit in 2002.

Table 12. Electric prod use in 23 pork slaughter plants. The scores were averaged in plants that had more than one audit.
Percentage of pigs electric prodded Number of plants Percentage of plants
0% - Excellent 1 4%
1 to 15% - Good 14 61%
16 to 25% - Acceptable 3 13%
26 to 49% - Not acceptable 2 9%
50% or more – Serious problem 3 13%
Lack of employee training was a major cause of high electric prod use in 2 out of the 3 plants that had a serious problem. Distractions that cause balking such as seeing people up ahead made handling difficult in one plant and a steep ramp contributed to handling problems in another plant.

Table 13. Percentage of pigs falling down during handling in 23 pork plants.
Percentage falling Number of plants Percentage falling
0% - Excellent 19 83%
1% - Acceptable 4 7%
More than 1% - Not acceptable 0 0%

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