Today we visited Plukon poultry slaughterhouse in Goor, where 175,000 broilers are slaughtered per day. The broilers stay in their transport containers from the moment of arrival until their death; they do not have to be taken out of the containers manually or mechanically (tilting) when still alive. In many slaughterhouses this still happens, causing a lot of fear and sometimes injuries.
Upon arrival, the containers with the broilers are first put in a lairage. The lights here were dimmed and blue; this keeps the broilers calmer. In the containers however, we observed a lot of birds with heatstress. Even though it was only 14-15°C outside, the temperature inside the containers was 22-23°C with an extremely high humidity level of 94%. This shows that there’s not enough air circulation inside the containers. Therefore, we advised Plukon to place additional, bigger fans (>1,5m in width) which, on a low speed, blows air through the containers (instead of just blowing the air along the containers). We also advised reducing the loading level, even though it complied with legal requirements, we still deemed it to be too high. Birds need to have enough space to release their heat by being able to spread their wings (besides breathing fast, this is one of the few ways in which a bird can cool down).
After the lairage period, the containers were brought to a conveyor belt by a forklift. The movement of the containers went well and was calm; there were no sudden or jerky movements, or loud noises that caused unnecessary stress. Via a conveyer belt the containers were led to a gas stunning tunnel with increasing levels of CO2 (Atlas system by Marel). In high concentrations CO2 causes immense stress. The CO2 concentration at the start of the process was relatively low (20%) and oxygen was added to prevent breathlessness from occurring but still, we saw the broilers gasping and shaking their little heads. We also saw many broilers flapping their wings. We gave some recommendations to reduce the stress during the exposure to CO2 and better monitor the factors that can influence it, for example by using intelligent cameras and sensors.
We want to thank Plukon for their time and we hope that they will start working on some of our recommendations soon.