As the peak body representing the meat chicken industry we are aware of the 7.30 Report segment that aired last night and which has raised concerns about poultry processing practices.
It appears from this footage that there were clear failures in the systems that were in place in this plant that should have ensured that the hens were effectively stunned before they were killed, and dead before they entered the scald tank.
The footage shows a bird being hit, which is also completely unacceptable. To facilitate compliance with appropriate handling procedures in this area of the plant, over 5 years ago, we recommended to our chicken processing companies that they install video monitoring of the live bird handling area in all of their plants, to ensure that bird welfare standards are being met. All the major meat chicken processing plants in Australia now have video monitoring in this area to ensure that any inappropriate handling of birds can be detected and acted upon.
It is important to know that the footage is from a laying hen processing facility, not from a meat chicken processing plant and is not representative of practices in the chicken meat industry. The chicken meat industry does not tolerate the mistreatment of its livestock.
The Australian Chicken Meat Federation (ACMF) can reassure consumers that Australian meat chicken processing plants operate to high standards of bird welfare, plant hygiene and quality assurance. All major chicken processing companies have procedures and assurance programs in place to ensure that birds are effectively stunned prior to being killed, and are dead before they enter processing.
Chicken meat processing companies who operate at these high standards, represent over 95% of chicken meat sold in Australia, and include well known brands synonymous with Australian fresh chicken products.
All Australian chicken meat processing plants must have in place, be audited against and meet their internal quality control programs, as well as those of their major customers. These programs are independently audited on a regular basis.
The ACMF is available to provide assistance and guidance to poultry processing operations, outside of its membership, and to work with the responsible regulator in each state to address issues around bird welfare handling and staff training.