Canadian Welfare Audits

2002 and 2003 Audits of Stunning and Handling in Canadian Federally Inspected Beef, Pork and Chicken Slaughter Plants

by Temple Grandin
Dept. of Animal Sciences
Colorado State University
Fort Collins CO 80523-1171


A total of 16 Canadian beef, pork and chicken plants were audited during 2002 to 2003 by either the author or a restaurant company. The plants were located in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and Manitoba. There were two chicken plants, five beef plants and nine pork plants. They were scored using the numerical objective scoring system that was developed by the author (Grandin 1997, 1998). This system is used by both plant management and customer animal welfare auditors.

The two chicken plants stunned 99% of the birds correctly, rendered 100% insensible and had 0% uncut red birds (Table 1). Stunning and bleeding passed the audit in both chicken plants. The broken wing scores were excellent (0.25%) in one plant and failing (5.4%) in the other plant (table 1). Both plants had the same type of plastic coops with small doors.


The one kosher beef plant performed really well and 94% of the cattle immediately collapsed after the cut (Table 2). Religious slaughter plants with a poor slaughterman will have a much lower immediate collapse rate. Three out of four plants that used captive bolt rendered 100% of the cattle completely insensible and passed the stunning audit (Table 3). A fourth plant failed the audit because an untrained employee hung three sensible cattle on the rail (Table 3). One animal was bellowing and the employee attempted to bleed it without restunning it. Two large beef plants with good internal auditing and the kosher plant passed the vocalization audit (Table 4). The kosher plant used an upright restraint device that held the cattle in an upright, standing position during the throat cut. In two plants, slipping, falling, excessive pressure applied by a restraint device or slamming gates on cattle were the cause of not acceptable vocalization scores. The percentage of cattle prodded with an electric prod ranged from 2% to 25% in the four plants that passed the audit. An untrained employee in the fifth plant used the prod in 90% of the cattle (Table 5). The percentage of cattle falling down was 0% in 4 plants and a failing score of 14% in the fifth plant (Table 6).


Seven out of nine pork plants passed the stunning and insensibility audit (Tables 7 and 8). One plant failed on insensibility due to an equipment failure and another failed due to misuse of an electric stunner to knock down and immobilize boars. In seven out of nine plants, the percentage of pigs prodded with the electric prod was an acceptable score of less than 25%. One plant failed the electric prod audit due to a combination of untrained employees and excitable, difficult to handle pigs. Producers must walk through their finishing pens several times each week during the entire finishing period to get lean excitable pigs accustomed to people. Table 9 shows that all of the pork plants had an excellent score of 0% of the pigs falling down during handling.

Comparison of plants experienced with restaurant audits vs. plants with no experience

For a plant to pass a restaurant audit they must render 100% of the animals insensible prior to hoisting. They also must achieve acceptable scores on all of the other variables that are measured such as 1) percentage of animals stunned correctly on the first attempt, 2) percentage vocalizing during handling and stunning, 3) percentage falling down and percentage prodded with an electric prod. For chickens, stunning, bleeding, uncut red birds and broken wings were scored (see recommendations for minimum acceptable scores). Seven out of sixteen (43%) of the Canadian plants failed the welfare audit on at least one scored variable. Plants that had been audited by a restaurant for at least two years had better welfare scores than unaudited plants. Table 10 shows that 80% of the plants previously audited by a restaurant passed and only 17% of the unaudited plants passed. Both plant management and meat inspection should implement objective scoring to improve standards. The management at some of the plants that failed did not know what to expect. The problems observed in some of these plants were similar to the problems that were observed in the United States before restaurant audits began in 1999.


Problem Areas That Need to be Corrected
  1. Electric Prod Use Two of the plants had employees who used an electric prod on 90 to 100% of the pigs and cattle. Employees must be trained that the electric prod is not their primary driving tool. The only place that an electrical prod is needed is at the entrance of the restrainer or stunning box. The electric prod should be stored in a handy location and only picked up when needed to move a stubborn animal. A flag, paddle stick or other non electric aid should be the primary driving tool.

  2. Internal Auditing Plants that were audited by a restaurant for at least two years performed better than plants that were not audited. Both plant personnel and meat inspectors should conduct weekly numerical audits of stunning, insensibility and handling. People manage the things that they measure. Each animal is scored on a yes/no basis for each variable. For example: A steer is either stunned correctly with one shot or it is not. It either vocalizes or it remains silent.

    Minimum Acceptable Scores for Cattle

    Minimum Acceptable Scores for Pigs

    Minimum Acceptable Scores for Chickens

  3. Employee Training In three plants, employees had not been trained in correct procedures. At one plant an employee attempted to bleed a fully sensible, bellowing beef animal that had been hoisted onto the rail. In two other plants, electric prods were used on 90% to 100% of the animals.

  4. Stunning Boars One plant knocked boars down with the electric stunner prior to placing the stunner on the head. Electricity must never be used to restrain a sensible conscious animal. This plant will need to build a restraining stall for stunning boars.

  5. Broken Chicken Wings One plant had an excellent score of 0.25% broken wings and other had a failing score of 5.4%. To prevent this problem, catchers must receive financial incentives to reduce damage. In the failing plant the catchers were paid based on kilograms of chickens loaded.

  6. Hard to Drive Excitable Pigs Excitable hard to drive pigs make good welfare during handling impossible. Producers must walk through the finishing barns a minimum of 2 to 3 times weekly during the entire finishing period to get pigs accustomed to people. The person should walk through the pens in a different random direction each day and teach the pigs to quietly get up and move around them. Pigs differentiate between a person in their pen and a person in the alley. To be effective, the person must get in with the pigs. Walking the finishing pens in especially important for pigs with excitable nervous genetics.

  7. Tailgate Problems - In 3 beef plans, cattle vocalized due to excessive pressure applied by stun box tailgates. This equipment problem needs to be corrected. Tailgates should be equipped with controls that enable the operator to incrementally control pressure applied to the animal.

  8. Slick Stun Box Floors Two plants had slipping and falling problems in the stun box. A metal grating constructed from 2 cm diameter steel bars welded on 30 cm x 30 cm centers will prevent slipping and falling. The bars must be welded flat against the floor.

  9. In one beef plant, the lairage pens were overcrowded. If cattle are held overnight they must have room to all lie down at the same time without being on top of each other.


Grandin, T. 1998. Objective scoring animal handling and stunning practices in slaughter plants. Journal of American veterinary Medical Assoc. 212:36-39.

Grandin, T. 1997. Good management practices for animal handing and stunning. American Meat Institute, Washington, D.C.

Table 1. Performance of two chicken plants on animal welfare scores.
Plant 1 Plant 2
Insensibility 100% Excellent 100% Excellent
Stunning 99% Acceptable 99% Acceptable
Bleeding 100% Excellent 100% Excellent
Uncut redbirds 0% Excellent 0% Excellent
Broken wings (feathers on) 0.25%1,2 Excellent 5.4%2 Fail
Dirty birds (due to litter) 0% Excellent 0% Excellent
Breast rub Excellent Excellent
Broken crates <5% Acceptable <5% Excellent
Bruised legs 1.8% Acceptable Not recorded
Breast blisters 0% Excellent Not recorded
Hockburn 0% Excellent 0% Excellent
Foot lesions 28% Not acceptable 5% est. Excellent
Space for backup bleeder Excellent Excellent
Gait score Acceptable Acceptable

1 Two producers birds were scored. One producer had 50% foot lesions and the other had 5%. Both producers had the same low level of broken wings.

2 Both plants had the same plastic coops with small doors and ran at high speeds of over 2 birds per second. The broken wings in plant 2 were caused by not holding catchers financially accountable for damage. They should receive incentive pay for low wing breakage.

Table 2. Stunning or kosher slaughter in 5 Canadian beef slaughter plants.
Plant Number Percent Stunned with one Shot Rating Line Speed
1 99.5% Excellent 150 hr
2 98% Acceptable Over 200 hr
3 98% Acceptable 65 hr
4 96% Fail hoisted 3 sensible cattle 60 hr
5 Kosher; 94% of the cattle collapsed within 10 seconds Excellent; 34/36 collapsed immediately 50 hr

The kosher plant had an excellent rabbi who cut the cattle with a rapid, swift stroke. There are big differences in the skill of rabbis or Muslim slaughtermen. In Canada, all plants doing kosher or halal slaughter are required to use a restraining device that holds the animal in an upright position during slaughter.

The minimum acceptable score for the percentage cattle shot correctly with one shot is 95%.

Table 3. Percentage of cattle rendered insensible before they were hung on the rail.
Plant Percentage Insensible Rating Reasons
1 100% Excellent
2 100% Excellent
3 100% Excellent
4 95%; 3 animals sensible Fail Untrained employees hung a fully sensible, bellowing animal on the rail.
5 Kosher 94% - collapsed within 10 seconds. One animal that failed to collapse was shot with a captive bolt prior to hoisting and one animal was hung on the rail breathing but it had no righting reflex. It was probably insensible. Excellent Compared to other Kosher plants I have observed, this plant performed well on insensibility.

Table 4. Vocalization of beef cattle during handling and stunning in 5 Canadian slaughter plants.
Plant Number Percent of Cattle Vocalizing Rating Reason for Vocalization
1 1% Excellent Not recorded
2 0.5% Excellent Not recorded
3 4% Not Acceptable Gate slammed on head or animal left in box too long.
4 11% Fail Slipping in stun box, head caught crooked in the head holder or excessive pressure applied by the tail gate.
5 5% Acceptable for Kosher Tail gate exert excessive pressure on the tail head.

Three plants had kosher head holders and two plants used them for captive bolt stunning. In two plants 0% vocalization was caused by the head holders. In the third plant only one animal vocalized when it was caught crooked in the head holder. A major problem was excessive pressure applied by pusher tailgates.

Table 5. Electric prod use on beef cattle in 5 Canadian slaughter plants.
Plant Number Percentage of Cattle Electric Prodded Rating Reasons for Electric Prod Use
1 9.5% Acceptable Balking
2 2% Excellent Balking
3 90% Fail Employee not trained
4 25% Acceptable Balking - could see people through head holder
5 25% estimate needed the electric prod. Let line run out in an attempt to get a low 5% prod score. Acceptable Could see people and many other moving distractions through the head holder. Tailgate door frame too low for tall animals.

For a valid electric prod score the handlers must keep the processing line full.

Table 6. Percentage of cattle falling during handling and stunning
Plant Number Percentage of Cattle Falling Down Rating Reasons for Falling
1 0% Excellent
2 0% Excellent
3 14% Fail Slipping in the stun box
4 0% falling but - 25% became agitated due to slipping Not acceptable Slipping in the stun box
5 0% Excellent

Table 7. Percentage of pigs that had correct wand placement of the electric stunner
Plant Number Electric Stunner Placement Rating Reasons
1 100% Excellent
2 CO2 Does not apply
3 94.5% Fail Equipment failure
4 99.5% Excellent
5 CO2 Does not apply
6 100% Excellent
7 100% Fail Used electric stunner to paralyze and knock down boars
8 100% Excellent
9 CO2 Does not apply

Table 8. Percentage of pigs rendered insensible on the bleed rail
Plant Number Percentage insensible Type of stunner Rating
1 100% Electric Excellent
2 100% CO2 Excellent
3 99.5% Electric Fail
4 100% Electric Excellent
5 100% CO2 Excellent
6 100% Electric Excellent
7 100% Electric Excellent
8 100% Electric Excellent
9 100% CO2 Excellent

Table 9. Percentage of Pigs Prodded with an Electric Prod
Plant Number Percentage prodded Rating Reasons
1 31% Not Acceptable
2 12% Acceptable
3 7.5% Acceptable
4 15% Acceptable
5 21% Acceptable
6 11% Acceptable
7 0% Excellent
8 4% Excellent
9 100% Fail Untrained employees and highly excitable, crazy pigs

To make pigs calmer and easier to driver, producers must walk through their finishing pens to get pigs accustomed to people being in their pens. This should be done several times a week for the entire finishing period.

Table 10. Percentage of pigs that fell down during handling
Plant Number Percentage prodded Rating Reasons
1 0% Excellent
2 0% Excellent
3 0% Excellent
4 0% Excellent
5 0% Excellent
6 0% Excellent
7 0% Excellent
8 0% Excellent
9 0% Excellent

Table 11. Comparison of beef, pork and chicken plants that have been audited by a restaurant for at least 2 years compared to plants that had not been previously audited.
Number of Plants Percentage Passing Restaurant Audit Number of Plants Passing
Plants experienced with auditing 10 80% 8
Plants with no auditing experience 6 17% 1

To pass a restaurant audit, a beef or pork plant must receive acceptable scores on stunning, insensibility, electric prod use, vocalization and falling down all measures must pass. For chickens, they must pass on stunning, bleeding, no uncut redbirds and broken wings. All measures must pass.

Click here to return to the Homepage for more information on animal behavior, welfare, and care.

Click here to return to Survey main menu to view surveys done during other years