Meat+Poultry - April 2021 - 90

FROM THE CORRAL

Facing the realities of CAS
Both researchers and animal advocacy
groups in Europe have become
increasingly concerned about the
stressfulness of CO2 stunning of pigs.
Within the last year, three scientific
articles have been published on either
finding alternative gasses for CO2 or
studying the behavior of pigs stunned
in CO2. The consensus is that the
induction phase before the pigs lose
consciousness is highly stressful.
Attempts to use alternative gasses
for pigs have not been successful. It
needs to be made very clear that this
discussion is limited to pigs. Different
species of animals react differently.
All new poultry CAS (controlled
atmosphere stunning) systems
have windows so induction can be
monitored and observed.
During the last year, I have received
inquiries from several European pork
companies that may switch back to
electric stunning. They have asked
me how to design electric stunning
systems where electric prods can be
removed. Eliminating electric prods is
easy in a CO2 system because the pigs
enter the stunner in groups. When pigs
enter a restrainer conveyor for electric
stunning, they have to move through
a single-file chute. This makes it more

difficult to completely eliminate electric
prods. For a high-speed pork processing
plant to eliminate electric prods, three
or four separate handling systems and
conveyor restrainers may be required.
This would reduce the line speed
sufficiently on each system to make
elimination of electric prods possible.
Low Atmospheric Pressure Systems
(LAPS) work well for chickens but
a large study in the United Kingdom
showed that it causes pain in pigs. The
Humane Slaughter Association and
the UK's Department for Environment,
Food & Rural Affairs (similar to the US
Department of Agriculture) funded a
study by Dorothy McKeegan from the
University of Glasgow. It was published
in the Meat Hygienist in December
2020 with the title, " LAPS in Pigs is
Not a Humane Alternative to Stunning
With Carbon Dioxide. " Most of the pigs
ended up with ruptured ear drums. This
would definitely cause pain. McKeegan
concluded that LAPS is not a viable
humane alternative for CO2.

GENETIC EFFECTS
I have looked into many CO2 chambers
and there are definite differences in
how pigs react to CO2. Some pigs have
a peaceful induction and others go
completely berserk and attempt to
escape from the gondola. In a research
lab, I observed Danish pigs that were
free of Halothane stress gene. They
had almost no reaction. A scientific
article published in 2021 by Australian

researchers showed that the farm of
origin had a significant effect on the
reaction of pigs in CO2. They also found
that poor handling practices before
entering the CO2 system increased
escape behaviors. Recent observations
I have made with modern hybrid pigs
showed that 20% to 30% of the pigs had
a calm induction. There were some pigs
that definitely had an extremely poor
reaction and they vigorously attempted
to escape. There were obvious big
differences in terms of how individual
pigs reacted to CO2.
Based on both my observations and
the scientific literature the potential
solution to the problem may be to stop
breeding pigs that attempt to escape
when they breathe CO2. With modern
genomic testing, it would be easy to test
the pigs that have a relatively peaceful
induction and compare their genetics to
the ones that attempt to break out of the
gondolas. It is likely that the Halothane
stress gene is one factor, but it is likely
that other genes are also involved.
There are tradeoffs. CO2 stunning
technology offers excellent low-stress
handling options. Some discomfort
during anesthetic induction may be
a reasonable tradeoff for low stress
handling. Where I draw the line is
when pigs attempt to escape from the
gondola. The US industry is afraid to
look inside the pig box. The situation
in Europe is going to force them to
address the issue.
T E M P L E G R A N D I N | m e a t p o u l t r y @ s o s l a n d .c o m

There are definite differences
in how pigs react to CO2.
Rosalie Winard

90

MEAT+ POULTRY | 04.21 | www.meatpoultry.com


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