2005 and 2006 McDonald's Animal Welfare Audits of Stunning and Handling of Beef Cattle in Australia and New Zealand

Temple Grandin, Ph.D.
Department of Animal Science
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado 80526


The performance of the beef plants in Australia and New Zealand is very similar to the U.S. A summary of the average scores on the five core criteria are shown in Tables 1 and 2.

Table 1: Summary of Australia Beef Animal Welfare Audits
2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Stunning Efficiacy First Shot 95.9% 98.0% 98.1% 97.2% 98.3%
Vocalization 0.0% 4.3% 2.6% 2.4% 2.7%
Bleed Rail Insensibility 100.0% 100.0% 99.9% 99.9% 100.0%
Dragging of Sensible Animals 0.0% 0.0% 0.1% 0.0% 0.0%
Slipping or Falling During Handling 0.5% 0.9% 0.2% 0.4% 0.3%
Use of Electric Prod 24.3% 16.6% 17.9% 13.7% 15.0%

Table 2: Summary of New Zealand Beef Animal Welfare Audits
2005 2006
Stunning Efficiacy First Shot 98% 99%
Vocalization 2% 2%
Bleed Rail Insensibility 100% 100%
Dragging of Sensible Animals 0% 0%
Slipping or Falling During Handling 1% 0%
Use of Electric Prod 20% 22%

The average percentage of cattle stunned correctly on the first shot is almost identical in the U.S. and Australia. However, out of 39 Australia beef plants, 2 plants (5%) had a serious problem with stunning, and less than 90% of the cattle were stunned on the first shot (Table 3).

Table 3: Stunning Efficacy First Shot
2005 2006
Stunning Efficacy First Shot Number of Plants % of Plants Number of Plants % of Plants Variance from 2005
99% to 100% - Excellent 17 45% 20 74% 29%
95% to 98% - Acceptable 16 42% 5 19% -24%
90% to 94% - Not Acceptable 3 8% 1 4% -4%
Less than 90% - Serious Problem 2 5% 1 4% -2%

Both Australia and New Zealand did a good job of making sure that all the cattle were insensible. In both Australia and New Zealand the eye reflexes are routinely checked before plugging the weasand (esophagus). Their procedures for blocking the weasand are not done in the U.S. The three Australian beef plants I visited had stunning scores of 100%, 95%, and 98%. All cattle (100%) were rendered insensible. The five Australian plants that did poorly on the stunning audit may have done so partially due to small sample sizes. In small plants sometimes less than 20 cattle are scored. Eighty-eight percent of the Australian plants passed the vocalization audit (Table 4).

Table 4: Vocalization
2005 2006
Vocalization Number of Plants % of Plants Number of Plants % of Plants Variance from 2005
0% to 1% - Excellent 17 44% 14 52% 8%
2% to 3% - Acceptable 12 31% 8 30% -1%
4% to 5% - Borderline Acceptable 5 13% 2 7% -5%
6% to 10% - Not Acceptable 3 8% 2 7% 0%
Over 10% - Serious Problem 2 5% 1 4% -1%

The three beef plants I visited had vocalization scores of 1%, 0%, and 7%. The 7% score was in a plant that handled newly weaned pasture raised veal calves weighing about 400 lbs (180 kb). They had been removed from their mothers before coming to the plant. Their vocalizations were mostly not associated with an obvious aversive event such as electric prods.

Table 5 shows a combined slipping and falling score. Only one plant failed in slipping and falling. In the three plants I visited, the scores for falling were 0%, 0%, and 0%.

Table 5: Slipping or Falling During Handling
2005 2006
Slipping or Falling During Handling Number of Plants % of Plants Number of Plants % of Plants Variance from 2005
0% to 1% - Excellent 35 90% 26 96% 7%
2% to 3% - Acceptable 2 5% 1 4% -1%
4% to 5% - Borderline Acceptable 1 3% 0 0% -3%
6% to 10% - Not Acceptable 1 3% 0 0% -3%
Over 10% - Serious Problem 0 0% 0 0% 0%

Table 6 shows the scores for electric prod use. Ninety-two percent of the Australian plants passed. In the three plants I visited, the electric prod scores were 19%, 0%, and 8%.

Table 6: Use of Electric Prod
2005 2006
Use of Electric Prod Number of Plants % of Plants Number of Plants % of Plants Variance from 2005
Under 5% - Excellent 10 26% 4 15% -11%
6% to 25% - Acceptable 26 67% 18 67% 0%
26% to 50% - Not Acceptable 3 8% 5 19% 11%
Over 50% - Serious Problem 0 0% 0 0% 0%

Tables 1 and 2 show the average electric prod scores for New Zealand were slightly higher than in Australia. This may be partially due to large numbers of Holstein dairy cattle. These animals are slower and sometimes more difficult to move. This is the reason why the guideline allows an electric prod to be used on 25% of the animals.

Areas That Need Improvement

The pattern of how practices improve is similar in the U.S. and Australia. Handling in the stunning chute is the first area to improve because it is being scored. In both the U.S. and in Australia the monitoring of truck drivers was the next area that had to be improved. In two of the plants I visited, training of truck drivers needed improvement. They need to be taught that a non-electrified tool should be their primary driving tool. Electric prods should be banned for unloading trucks; but they may still be required to move stubborn cattle into the stun box. Unloading ramps also need to be inspected more carefully. In one plant, a non-slip floor grating had been built wrong and it pulled off the animalsí due claws. The rods on a non-slip floor grating must be welded so that the entire rod mat lays flat. This design prevents damage to hooves and dewclaws. The rods must never be criss-crossed on top of each other.

Another area that needs improvement is weaning methods for pasture raised veal calves. Weaning by putting them on a truck is highly stressful. Pre-weaning methods need to be developed. This will have to be done carefully to avoid an increase in sickness. This is one area that will need to be researched. The use of low stress weaning methods such as fenceline weaning needs to be investigated.


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