The poultry industry faces a public perception with the way it moves birds.

When people outside of animal agriculture see chickens or turkeys moving from the farm to processing, what they see is not aesthetically pleasing or easy to understand. The untrained observer sees lots of birds placed in relatively small cages, exposed to the elements as they roll down the road.

If that’s all they see, it’s easy to understand why consumers are curious about whether their chicken is cage-free or not.

Out of sight out of mind

There is a solution for this problem that’s brilliant in its simplicity: wrapping the trailers with fabric curtains or tarps.

These new trailers put a spin on the conventional design – metal modules stacked on a flatbed trailer – by adding a removable covering material over the sides and the top of the transport trailer. A number of trailer manufacturers, such as Smithway Inc. in the U.S. and Curtainsider Inc. in Canada, already have products on the market designed exclusively for poultry transport.

Advantages of curtain sided trailers  

This design feature creates benefits for consumer perception, animal welfare and potentially for yield.

The covered trailers eliminate the problem of people seeing the birds in cages. Instead, the truck is as non-descript as any other. The fabric sides can even be used as rolling billboards promoting the integrator’s finished product.

Additionally, the trailers carry significant advantages over conventional design. From an animal welfare standpoint, transportation from the farm to processing is the most stressful time in a bird’s life. Wrapping the trailer protects the birds from exposure to the elements like the wind, heat and cold and reduces the amount of stress on the birds.

Furthermore, the sides establish better climate control through better ventilation and protection from heat or cold exposure. When used in conjunction with onboard climate devices and environmental sensors, this can lead to significantly better animal welfare outcomes. Less overall stress on the bird leads to less mortality and means better yield at the plant compared with conventional transport systems.