The method sees birds hung upside down on shackles then partially emerged in a waterbath where they are stunned by an electric current delivered through the water before they are bled.
Controlled atmosphere stunning (CAS), where the bird is stunned by a gas such as carbon dioxide prior to shackling and killing, is a viable alternative, but has proven on average to be the most expensive, the Commission found.
The cost gap is smaller for high capacity slaughterhouses. For those processing 12,000 birds per hour, costs are cited at: €0.02439 per bird for waterbath against €0.03495 per bird for CAS, a gap of €0.01056.
For smaller slaughterhouses, CAS is €0.01146 more expensive at a capacity of 6,000 birds per hour and €0.01469 more costly at 3,000 birds per hour.
Waterbath is used to stun 80% of broilers in the EU; CAS is used for the rest. The trend will remain in favour of waterbath, the European Commission report predicted.
Even so, CAS is better for poultry producers selling mostly breast fillet, as it reduces the number of blood splashes in the meat, while waterbath may be better suited for those selling whole chicken where imperfections are not so critical, the report commented.
“When making an investment decision, business operators in the EU will take into account the different interests/matters that are relevant for their [specific] situation,” Cees Vermeeren, secretary general of the Brussels-based Association of Poultry Processors and Poultry Trade in the EU countries (AVEC) told Globalmeatnews.com.
Animal welfare groups say CAS is less stressful for the birds. “Methods using waterbath stunner are extremely stressing, painful and often ineffective,” Michel Courat, policy officer for farm animals at Brussels based Eurogroup for Animals told Globalmeatnews.com. He claimed some birds avoid electric shocks delivered through the water.
CAS was “rather expensive” but was “worth the money for a rate of kill of around 6,000-8,000 or more birds per hour”, Courat added.