The National Chicken Council on October 30 released the following statement in response to a Washington Post article, "USDA plan to speed up poultry-processing lines could increase risk of bird abuse." Attributable to Tom Super, NCC vice president of communications:
"The figures cited by the Washington Post represent one one hundredth of one percent (.01 percent) of the chickens we process for meat per year. But the industry is working every day to get those figures as close to zero as possible. In fact, the National Chicken Council's Animal Welfare Guidelines for Broilers will be updated this year to help achieve that goal.
"Poultry processors consider the welfare of the birds the top priority. Not only is it the right thing to do ethically, but it does not make economic sense to mistreat the birds.
"FSIS has guidelines and directives setting humane slaughter requirements under the Poultry Products Inspection Act and chicken processors strictly adhere to the National Chicken Council Animal Welfare Guidelines and Audit Checklist. The guidelines, which will be updated this year, cover every phase of the chicken's life and offer science-based recommendations for humane treatment. This whole process is routinely audited both internally and by an independent third party and monitored on a continuous basis by FSIS inspectors.
"Companies may receive a non-compliance report relating to animal welfare and will take corrective action when they are not in compliance with FSIS directives or NCC guidelines.
"In terms of stunning, we agree with the American Association of Avian Pathologists and the American College of Poultry Veterinarians that controlled atmospheric stunning (CAS) systems have been demonstrated to be effective for the stunning of commercial poultry, but the overall effect on animal welfare when compared to well-managed electrical stunning systems has not been determined. Research has not consistently demonstrated one commercially available stunning method to be superior to another. Based on current research and evidence available from North American slaughter facilities, well-managed low voltage and CAS systems are both humane and acceptable methods for stunning of poultry.
"There is no data to suggest that modernizing the poultry inspection system would lead to increased non-compliance reports related to the care of the birds. It is unfortunate that the inspectors union and animal rights activists are attempting to derail real progress in making our food supply even safer."