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Technical manual tells how to kill chickens humanely for better meat

By Xie Chuanjiao in Qingdao and Zhao Ruixue in Jinan | China Daily | Updated: 2016-09-01 07:28

A new technical manual in Shandong province encourages the use of humane methods to slaughter chickens. The methods promote better meat quality, proponents said.

The manual, which sets standards to reduce the animals' suffering, was prepared by a research team at Qingdao Agricultural University and approved recently by the Shandong provincial government's quality watchdog.

"Complying with the humane slaughter manual is not only about showing human compassion for the animal but also could improve the quality of the meat," said Sun Jingxin, a professor of food science at the university's College of Food Science and Engineering.

The standards "ensure that suffering at slaughter can be avoided so the animals experience minimal fear, stress and pain", he said.

Sun's team pursued the research with Nanjing Agricultural University and several other institutions for several years, examining each part of the slaughter process - including catching, the deprivation of fluids and food during transportation, unloading, rest before slaughter and stunning the birds before killing them.

"For example, workers should use two hands to catch both wings or use a specialized catching device," Sun said. "Grabbing a single wing or leg of a chicken will cause much more pain or broken bones."

The new manual requires that live chickens be transported no longer than three hours, with proper temperature and humidity. Also, the chickens need to rest before slaughter, which includes a massager installed on the animal's breast to pacify it. Before being killed, chickens should be rendered unconscious with gas or electric shock, according to the guideline.

Sun said that without these measures, chickens suffer great pain before death, and blood can burst into muscle fibers, causing bruising and stains. The quality of the meat may be seriously compromised.

Shandong raises 20 percent of China's broiler chickens, and chicken accounts for 40 percent of the province's meat production.

Technical manual tells how to kill chickens humanely for better meat

"The manual is not mandatory law, but companies adopting the new standards will become more competitive in the market, and it will lead to improvement of meat quality and more profits in the end," Sun said.

He expects the standards will be widely applied across China in five to 10 years and considers them a great improvement for the industry.

He also encouraged the consumption of more chicken.

"The efficiency of pork and beef production is much lower than chicken. Chicken should account for a much larger share of people's diet," Sun said.

People in Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan eat more chicken than other meats, he said.

In China, pork is king, accounting for more than 60 percent of meat consumption, with chicken at 15 percent.

Some slaughter enterprises applauded the guidelines suggested by the manual.

"The manual will give us technical guidance, which we really need," said Xu Shuqin, a sales manager at Shandong Spring Snow Food Co in Laiyang, Shandong province, which focuses on raising, slaughtering and processing chicken.

"Humane slaughter will improve chicken quality, helping us expand our overseas markets."

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