Today we visited the poultry slaughterhouse Storteboom in Kornhorn to give advice on how stress and suffering in their slaughterhouse could be reduced. Wouter Veerkamp of the company Meyn was also present.
First of all, Storteboom showed us their transport containers. Based on earlier advice we had given them, they had changed the design of their construction in order to reduce the injuries birds may get during catching and loading. They moved the location of the metal bars at the front of the containers and completely got rid of horizontal bars at the top of each drawer. We are very pleased with this change.
At Storteboom, the chickens are stunned via the Meyn CO2 gas stunning system. In this gas-stunning system the transport containers with chickens inside are placed automatically into CO2 cabins. This process (automated stacking and shifting of the containers) was virtually silent and very stable at Storteboom, which was good as the birds in the containers were moved calmly without any loud noises or abrupt scary movements. The lamps in this area were all blue in colour. Blue is known to keep birds calm.
Through small windows we could also view the birds enter into the CO2 cabins. We documented the chickens showing a slight stress reaction upon entering the cabin even at the beginning, before the
injection of the CO2 had started. This is undesirable. We asked Storteboom and Wouter Veerkamp to find out what the possible causes could be in order that it be solved. Furthermore, some cabins made a loud squeaking noise when CO2 was injected. Because chickens are very sensitive to abrupt and high-pitched sounds, we recommended that they find a way to dampen this noise. Noise reduction was also needed in other places.
Furthermore, Storteboom uses an electric water bath as a backup system (in case of a malfunction in the CO2 stunning system). When the electric water bath system is used, chickens are tilted while still alive. We have expressed our concerns about this because the conveyor belt on which the chicks fall is relatively short and low, causing chickens to fall at quite a height onto each other.
Finally, we recommended that they turn on the existing fans in the waiting room earlier and buying additional fans because during our visit (between 10 and 12 o’clock) we already saw a number of birds showing signs of mild heat stress. We also noticed a number of birds with split legs. These chickens clearly suffer a lot of stress during transport because they have serious difficulty moving and staying balanced. Eyes on Animals believes that these birds should not be transported but rather euthanized on the poultry farm. In practice, however, these chickens are still being transported because they are otherwise “healthy” and provide suitable meat.