Electrical Stunning of Pigs and Small Ruminants

I am going to highlight the AVMA 2016 guidelines relative to the electrical stunning of pigs and small ruminants


Last week, the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) held its annual Animal Welfare Conference.  Temple Grandin was the first speaker and spoke about many issues regarding humane handling of livestock.  In her presentation, she referred to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Guidelines for the Humane Slaughter of Animals: 2016 Edition.  It is of some length so you can go to this link if you wish to read it in its entirety. 




I am going to highlight the AVMA 2016 guidelines relative to the electrical stunning of pigs and small ruminants because it further substantiates the effectiveness of the TGB 100 Hog Stunner which I sell.


·         Unconsciousness must be induced before cardiac fibrillation or simultaneously with cardiac fibrillation.  Cardiac fibrillation must never occur before the animal is rendered unconscious




·         The head only method has both animal welfare and meat quality issues.






·         Negative meat effects in the head only method include decreased tenderness, increased drip loss and pale muscle color due to more intense muscle contractions compared with either one step or two step cardiac arrest stunning.




·         Stunner settings that reliably induce epileptic activity in the brain must be used




·         In the interest of animal welfare, electrical stunning of sheep should be done with an amperage of at least 1.0 A and in pigs a minimum of 1.25 A should be used for 220 pound animals.  Pigs weighing 280 pounds live weight require 1.8 to 2.0 A.






·         More recent research has shown that amperage is the most important electric parameter, but operators should also evaluate for signs of a grand mal seizure.  These signs include extension of the legs, arching of the head neck and spinal column and downward rotation of the eyeballs.




·         When making the determination of effective stunning, the legs may move but it is the head that must be examined.  On the rail, the head and neck should be floppy and the tongue should hang out.  Sheep heads may not hang straight down because of anatomical differences, but pig heads should hang straight down. 






·         If natural blinking occurs, the animal is not stunned.  Nystagmus or involuntary eye movement (sometimes referred to as “dancing eyes”) should not be confused with natural eye blinking. 




·         Rhythmic breathing must cease and vocalizations should not occur.  Gasping is permissible after electric stunning but it is not to be confused with rhythmic breathing where the ribs move in and out.




·         Time between stunning and bleeding is critical when head only stunning is used.  Animals should be bled within 15 seconds.  When cardiac arrest is induced, the animals should be bled within 60 seconds.




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