Controlled atmosphere killing

It’s important for us to understand where our food comes from and how it arrives on our plate. The slaughtering of animals is a touchy topic, but one I feel any meat eater should be familiar with since we drive the livestock industry and should be aware of its effects not only on the environment, but at a humanitarian level.

I’d go so far to say that if we aren’t prepared to at least watch an animal being slaughtered, we shouldn’t eat it.

On the environmental front, livestock are responsible for 37% of all human activity related methane emissions, and methane has 23 times more global warming potential compared to carbon dioxide. Grazing lands take up 26% of the ice-free land on Earth.

When it comes to environmental impact, not all meat is created equal. If everyone were to shift from beef to chicken consumption, that alone would drop greenhouse gas emissions related to livestock by 70%.

But it’s not that easy. Chickens bred for meat often have a tough life and sadly, a tough death – even some free range chickens.

In many slaughterhouses in the USA, the chickens are shackled upside down on a line, then dumped into a tank of water that’s been electrified. They don’t always die, some even survive during the next stage of throat cutting. Sometimes these creatures end their lives scalded in vats of boiling water during the de-feathering process. Additionally, the birds can suffer at the hands of slaughterhouse workers who through the nature of their job or whatever reason no longer view the chickens as animals that feel pain.

It’s not something pleasant to visualize when trying to enjoy a chicken dinner – but it happens, and we consumers allow it to happen through ignorance.

There is an alternative to all this cruelty and it’s being used increasingly in Europe – it’s called Controlled Atmosphere Killing.  This is the process of killing birds in their transport containers using a mixture of inert gases, such as nitrogen or argon in air with less than 2 percent oxygen saturation. According to this article, the birds exhibit little stress and no signs of pain. Research has found that birds will willingly enter a CAK chamber to feed.

In addition to the animal welfare aspect, controlled-atmosphere killing also provides improved meat quality when compared to different types of electrical stunning methods.

I’d never heard of controlled-atmosphere killing until today when I became aware of a related PETA campaign. I can’t say I’m a fan of PETA as I find their methods a little over the top at times, but this campaign against McDonalds sourcing chicken killed by electrification I feel is a worthy one. If big chains like McDonalds demand their suppliers make the switch to controlled atmosphere killing, others will surely follow.

While I realize eating meat in any form will raise cries of criticism from some people and I respect those views, if we are going to eat it, we could at least make an effort to ensure the animals don’t unnecessarily suffer during their lives and in their last moments.

If all this talk of animal slaughtering is turning you off meat altogether, congratulations, you’re a step ahead of me; although I have been known to partake in more meat replacement products lately. If you’d like to learn more about this aspect, check out my article on mock meat.


Cutting meat consumption