(Updated September 2012)
To insure an acceptable level of animal welfare, cattle should become unconscious and collapse quickly after kosher slaughter. Target 90% or more collapse within 30 seconds. Data collected in five kosher plants in several different countries indicated that improvements in procedures will greatly shorten the interval between the cut and loss of consciousness. All five plants had an upright kosher restraint box that held the animal in a standing position. The time in seconds was recorded from the end of the cut until the eyes rolled back and the animal started to collapse.
|Group 1||Group 2||Group 3|
|Average time in seconds||15||35||22|
|Number of cattle||9||17||23|
|Percentage that collapsed within 30 seconds||100%||35%||91%|
Plant 1 had a good upright box that was long enough so that long cattle would not be pushed up too hard against the front of the box. Pushing the animalís chest up against the front of the box will restrict blood flow. It was standard practice in this plant to totally release the head holder belly lift and rear pusher gate immediately after the animal was cut. This will promote bleeding.
|Group 1||Group 2|
|Average time in seconds||17||33|
|Number of cattle||17||19|
|Percentage that collapsed within 30 seconds||94%||68%|
Plant 2 had a good box that fit the cattle. Group 1 had shorter collapse times because pressure on the animalís body from the head holder, rear pusher gate and belly lift was released more quickly.
|Group 1||Group 2|
|Average time in seconds||15||16|
|Number of cattle||13||21|
|Percentage that collapsed within 30 seconds||92%||100%|
Plant 3 was doing everything right. They had an excellent upright box and both the box operator and the schohets had worked on perfecting the details of box operation and cutting. The schohets made deep cuts with a swift stroke with very little sawing motion. The total time that the animal was held tightly fully restrained in the box was under 10 seconds. Immediately after the cut, the head holder and rear pusher were released, and the animal was removed from the box. Plant 3 is one of the few plants that perform no second cut after the kosher cut. This plant has a very low level of blood splash.
|Average time in seconds||29|
|Number of cattle||25|
|Percentage that collapsed within 30 seconds||72%|
Plant 4 had an excellent schohet, but there were problems with the design of their box. It was too short for long cattle which caused vocalization (bellow) in 30% of the cattle. They did not perform the total release procedure that has been successfully used in other plants because the box was too short to release the rear pusher gate. The head holder was released immediately after the cut.
|Group 1||Group 2|
|Average time in seconds||34||31|
|Number of cattle||7||21|
|Percentage that collapsed within 30 seconds||77%||55%|
In plant 5, cattle were held in the box too long while a second cut was being done in the box. Their box also held the animal too tightly and applied excessive pressure.
Recommendations to shorten the interval between cutting and loss of sensibility. These methods will also reduce bloodsplash damage in the meat (Grandin 2010).
Gregory et al (2010) have reported very similar results when good techniques were used. In this study, 88% of the cattle collapsed within 30 seconds and a few cattle had prolonged periods of sensibility. This is similar to our observation. Cattle take longer to lose sensibility compared to sheep and goats. Sheep will lose consciousness and become insensible within 2 to 14 seconds (Gregory and Wotton 1984, Blackmore 1984). Time to eye rollback can also be used to determine onset of unconsciousness.
When a rotating box is used, scoring of onset of unconsciousness can be determined by observing the animal's response to waving a hand within 15 cm (6 in) of it's eye. Any response such as natural blinking, flinching, vocalization, or kicking is a sign that the animal is still conscious. Another indicator of consciousness is eye tracking when a hand is moved slowly past the eye (H. Anil personal communication, 2010). When the eyes roll back this is another indicator of loss of consciousness.
Grandin, T. 2010. Improving Animal Welfare: A Practical Approach. CABI Publishing, UK.
Gregory, N.G. and Wotton, S.B. 1984a. Sheep slaughtering procedures - II: Time to loss of brain responsiveness after exsanguination or cardiac arrest. British Veterinary Journal. 140:354-260.
Gregory, N.G., Fielding, H.R., von Wenzlawowicz, M., and von Hollenben, K. 2010.Time to collapse following slaughter without stunning. Meat Science. 85:66-69.
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