This morning a team from Eyes on Animals visited Remkes poultry slaughterhouse in Epe (NL). Remkes mainly slaughters breeder broilers. The birds are rendered unconscious with the Anglia Autoflow CO2 gas stunning system. In this system birds are stunned while they are still inside their transport crates. Therefore many stressful procedures, like manual or automatic unloading of the birds from their transport modules as well as live shackling, are prevented. Nevertheless CO2 stunning does compromise bird welfare. Even though the gas was preheated to reduce discomfort, we witnessed head shaking, deep breathing (breathlessness) and sometimes the flapping of wings when animals were still conscious. The Anglia Autoflow gas stunning system starts with a higher concentration of CO2 than systems of Meyn or Stork.
We expressed our concern to Remkes managers also about the conveyer belt that brings the crates loaded with live birds towards the stunning system. This process did not go very smoothly. The belt often stopped and caused crates to bump into each other causing the birds inside the crates to panic. There was also quite a lot of noise during this process. The loud noise and the jerky movement of the conveyor belt resulted in birds being very alert and nervous. The good news is that directly after our visit Remkes managers contacted the technical service of their company and reduced some of the problems by adjusting the settings of the conveyer belt and machine that unstacked the crates. They also moved some of the sensors .
Remkes developed an animal-welfare and environment label called “NoviPlus”. This label applies to the whole chain, including the poultry catchers, transporters and the slaughterhouse. One criteria under this label is that the maximum time birds are permitted to be left inside the crates is 7 hours. Remkes also uses a rewarding system for poultry farmers where 5 categories are scored: breast blisters, foot pad lesions, leg infections, the crop (time of feed withdrawal) and injuries caused by catching and loading. If scores are good or very good the farmer is rewarded with one or two cents extra per chicken.
We find it very positive that Remkes worked on several animal welfare improvements immediately after our visit. We would like to thank them for their active and transparent attitude. We will continue working with them on further improvements.