More Birds Will Be Boiled Alive After USDA Change

Factories to be able to process 175 a minute, up from 140

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 30, 2013 2:09 AM CDT | Updated Oct 30, 2013 6:03 AM CDT

(Newser) – An Agriculture Department plan to speed up poultry processing will result in more chickens and turkeys dying painful deaths, experts warn. Almost a million birds are already boiled alive every year when they are improperly shackled to the processing line, meaning they elude the automatic blade and are still alive when they enter a scalder, the Washington Post finds. Birds that die this way turn red and are discarded because the meat is full of blood. Inspectors say that such inhumane treatment is often caused by the pace at which employees work, and will only increase if it is sped up.

"One of the greatest risks for inhumane treatment is line speed. You can’t always stop the abuse at these speeds," a poultry-slaughter expert warns. "It’s so fast, you blink and the bird has moved away from you." Under plans the USDA says will make plants more efficient and reduce pathogens, the maximum processing speed will be sped from 140 birds to 175 birds per minute in chicken plants and from 45 to 55 per minute in turkey plants. Animal welfare groups have long pushed for an alternative method that knocks birds out with carbon dioxide or other gases. "Controlled atmospheric stunning" is used by many turkey plants, but only a handful of chicken-processing facilities. The Post has previously reported that the new rules will likely see birds doused in more chemicals, too.

Chickens huddle in their cages at a farm in California.
Chickens huddle in their cages at a farm in California.   (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
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