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Head-cloaca controlled current stunning: assessment of brain and heart activity and meat quality

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1. Behavioural and neural responses of 65 broilers to head-to-cloaca electrical stunning were evaluated and meat quality was assessed on two groups of 25 broilers stunned either head to cloaca, or in a conventional water bath method.

2. On the EEG recordings, a general epileptiform insult was observed when applying a current of 100 mA (100 Hz) or 70 mA (70 Hz) for 1·5 s. This general epileptiform insult shows a tonic, clonic and exhaustion phase followed by spikes of alpha, beta, theta and delta waves with duration of on average 34 ± 12 s and 39 ± 23 s respectively. These birds may have been unconscious for 20 s or longer, according to the correlation dimension analyses.

3. The heart rate decreased significantly (P < 0·05) after stunning and recovered after 60 s.

4. Within a confidence limit of 95%, taking into account the number of animals with a reliable EEG, the chance of an effective stun of all broilers lies between 0·9 and 1·0 with a current of 70 mA (100 Hz for 1·5 s; n = 28) and with 100 mA (100 Hz for 1·5 s; n = 27).

5. The shear force of breast fillets was slightly lower (P < 0·01) 4 d post mortem compared with the conventional water bath stunned group (set at 100 mA, 100 Hz for 10 s). The percentage of fillets and legs without blood splashes was higher, and the percentage with severe blood splashes lower-to-none, for carcases stunned head-cloaca.

6. It can be concluded that broilers are effectively stunned with the head-cloaca method by using a controlled current of 70 mA or 100 mA for 1·5 s. The fillets and legs of bird stunned head-cloaca showed fewer blood splashes in the muscles compared with birds stunned in a conventional water bath.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Wageningen UR Livestock Research, P.O. Box 658200 AB Lelystad, The Netherlands

Publication date: 2012-04-01

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