A new method for stunning poultry at slaughter may have the potential for significant animal welfare benefits, as well as operational and economic advantages, suggests the Humane Slaughter Association (HSA).

Low atmospheric pressure stunning (LAPS) is a method which uses controlled reduction in air pressure, causing oxygen insufficiency. The effect is similar to unconsciousness caused by oxygen insufficiency in humans and is associated with little or no discomfort, a recent HSA workshop was told.

The LAPS system has been developed over three years with Mississippi State University and the University of Arkansas, together with the manufacturer, TechnoCatch of Kosciusko, Missisippi. It is capable of handling more than 20,000 birds an hour and has been in full commercial use at integrated poultry producer OK Foods in Arkansas since early 2011.

“The experience gained in using the system, together with the research, appears to have produced very positive results from welfare, operational and economic perspectives,” said James Kirkwood, chief executive of the HSA. “The LAPS system appears to offer significant advantages over other commercial methods of slaughter currently in use for broilers and we hope that, by bringing interested parties together, the workshop will stimulate further research and development of the system, both for broilers and other species.”

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