Broiler transport study aims for stress-free last ride
Researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark are collaborating with the poultry industry to develop a gentler and more environmentally friendly method of broiler transportation to the slaughterhouse.
Scientists and private enterprises have joined forces in the project which will be a boost for animal welfare, the environment and food quality – and will save the poultry industry 40m DKK (€5.3 million).
Physiological effects on chickens
The three-year project has received a 7m DKK (€930,000) grant from the Green Development and Demonstration Programme under the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries. With support from Linco Food Systems a new climate-controlled transport system will be developed with Aarhus University scientists validating the physiological effects of the system on the chickens.
With air-conditioning during transport the chickens would get a much more comfortable ride. This will improve their welfare, reduce stress levels and make the transport more efficient. The project partners expect the new system to provide added value and cost savings of about 40 DKK (€5) per broiler, corresponding to a saving of 40m DKK (€5.3 million) for the Danish poultry industry as a whole.
Modular design with climate control
As things are now, chickens are carried in crates that are stacked in racks on a truck. The boxes usually have perforated sides and bottom to ensure some ventilation. The load is ventilated purely by the natural ventilation and thus depends on the wind conditions and vehicle speed.
This type of transport system does not allow the temperature and humidity to which the chickens are exposed to be controlled in the time it takes to drive them to the slaughterhouse. The system is designed to be used in many countries, and in countries outside Denmark chickens will in some instances be left in the non-climate-controlled crates when arriving at the slaughterhouse since many slaughterhouses abroad do not have special housing for chickens.
Environmental and animal welfare benefits
The design of the transport crates and the climate control system mean that the space in the truck is used optimally since the animal density does not depend on the outdoor temperature. The more efficient use of space means that transportation can be reduced by 36%, equivalent to 1.0 to 1.5 million km by truck and a reduction in emissions of 1000-1500 t CO2 per year.
The broilers and consumers will also benefit directly from the new system. Project participants expect the mortality during transport to fall by 30% - from 0.3% to 0.2%. When the chickens are exposed to stress this can affect the quality of their meat where the meat becomes pale, soft and exudative. This is the so-called PSE meat. Project partners expect that the incidence of PSE meat will be halved from the current 30% (estimated average of relevant markets) to 15%.
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