2015 Animal Welfare and Humane Slaughter Audits in U.S. Federally Inspected Beef Slaughter Plants

Temple Grandin
Department of Animal Sciences
Colorado State University

In 2015, beef slaughter plants have greatly improved animal welfare audit scores.

Stunning and handling scores have really improved in large beef slaughter plants. Animal welfare data collected during 2015 shows that stunning has really improved during the last four years. A major meat buyer audited 19 large beef plants in both the U.S. and Canada. One hundred cattle were scored in most plants and 50 to 75 were scored when more cattle were not available. Some plants in the sampled processed a combination of fed beef and cows and others were exclusively fed beef. These reasults clearly show that all the effort the industry has pu into animal welfare has really paid off.

Stunning Scores Improved

Table 1 shows that 78% of the 19 slaughter plants rendered 100% of the cattle properly stunned and insensible with a single shot. The two poorest scores were 2 plants with a 98% first sthot stunning score. The average first shot stunning score for all 19 slaughter plants was 99.7%. All animals where the first shot missed were immediately restunned. One explanation for these improved scroes is increased enforcement from USDA/FSIS meat inspectors. One hundread percent of the cattle were unconscious before hoisting to the rail.

Electric Prod use is Reduced

Table 2 shows that 84% of the 19 beef plants used an electric prod on 0 to 5% of the cattle. This would be an excellent rating on the NAMI guidelines. The remaining plants all had prod scores of less than 15%. In most plants, there is only one battery operated prod and it is only picked up and used if a vibratig prod or other non-electrified tool fails to move an animal.

Vocalization Scores are Low

The percentage of cattle that vocalized varied from 0% to 3%. This score has remained constant and further improvement may not occur. Vocalization for each animal is scored as either silent or vocaltion (moo, bellow). Is is recorded in the stun box and during active handling when an animal is moved into a stun box or restrainer. The one kosher plan had an excellent 0% score for both vocalization and electric prod use. The cattle were restrained in an upright restraint box.

Falling was 0%

Falling during handling or unloading of trucks has remained at very low leels. IN 2015, 0% of the cattle fell in all 19 slaugher plants. In 2 of the plants, 1% to 2% of the cattle slipped.


The combination of more wide spreada use of video auditing, increased USDA / FSIS oversight, and many customer audits has greatly improved scores for stunning and electric prod use.

Table 1: Percentage of beef cattle rendered insensible with a single captive bolt shot in 18 slaugher plants*
Percentage first shot effective Number of Plants Percentage of Plants Rating
100% 14 78% Excellent
99% 2 11% Excellent
98% 2 11% Not acceptable private std.

* One kosher plant had no stunning score.

Table 2: Percentage of beef cattle moved with an electric prod in 19 slaugher plants
Percentage moved with an electric prod Number of Plants Percentage of Plants Rating
0% 11 58% Excellent
1% to 5% 5 26% Excellent
6% to 15% 3 16% Good
Over 15% 0 0%

Table 3: Percentage of beef cattle that vocalized during handling and restraint in 19 slaughter plants
Percentage vocalizing Number of Plants Percentage of Plants Rating
0% 8 42% Excellent
1% to 2% 9 47% Excellent
2% to 3% 2 11% Excellent
Over 3% 0 0% Acceptable

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