PETA urges CAK poultry slaughter

26-06-2009 | |

A PETA representative will present a statement to SUPERVALU asking the grocery chain to give purchasing preference to poultry suppliers that use “controlled-atmosphere killing” when slaughtering poultry.

SUPERVALU is one of the largest grocery chains in the country, reporting $44.6 bln in net sales for the 2009 fiscal year, operating more than 2,500 stores.

“The way that SUPERVALU’s suppliers treat birds could warrant felony cruelty-to-animals charges if the victims were dogs or cats,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “Consumers care about animal welfare, so the last thing that the company needs is to be associated with animal abuse.”

PETA’s statement

Hello. I’m Stephanie Corrigan representing PETA, and I’d like to ask a question regarding SUPERVALU’s position on controlled-atmosphere killing, or CAK.

In terms of animal welfare, CAK is the best slaughter technology available — it is USDA-approved and has the complete support of the top poultry experts in North America and the U.K. Among these experts is Temple Grandin, who has already served as a consultant to SUPERVALU on animal welfare issue.

Currently, SUPERVALU’s suppliers use the electric-immobilization method of slaughter. With this method, birds are paralyzed with an electric shock, have their throats cut while still conscious, and are then defeathered in scalding-hot water. Birds often suffer broken bones, bruising, and hemorrhaging when they are dumped and shackled, which lowers product quality and potential profits at facilities that use this method.

In addition, birds are often scalded to death in defeathering tanks. When this happens, they frequently defecate in the tanks, further increasing product contamination and decreasing profits.

Because frustrated workers handle live birds, they often abuse the animals. Frightened birds flap their wings, kick workers, and vomit and defecate on them, increasing worker injuries and illness and creating poor overall working conditions. This leads to higher company payout and an extremely high turnover rate.

Each time PETA has investigated a poultry slaughterhouse, we have found horrific abuse that could have been avoided completely if CAK were being used. And cruelty affects business — within a few days of a PETA’s investigation at a Pilgrim’s Pride plant, the company’s stock price dropped by more than 10%.

With CAK, birds are placed in chambers while they are still in their transport crates. Their oxygen is replaced with low levels of carbon dioxide, efficiently and gently putting them “to sleep”. Because workers never handle live birds, working conditions improve, injury and illness rates for workers decrease, and the opportunities for workers to abuse live birds are eliminated.

Because there is no live dumping, live shackling, or live scalding, product quality – as well as animal welfare – are greatly improved, and rates of contamination decrease. This means that if SUPERVALU’s suppliers switched to CAK, it would have better quality products at a lower cost.

My question is this: When will SUPERVALU make the socially and economically responsible decision to give purchasing preference to suppliers who adopt this proven technology?

Natalie Kinsley Freelance journalist