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Br Poult Sci. 1997 Sep;38(4):323-32.

Shackling of broilers: effects on stress responses and breast meat quality.

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Department of Poultry Science, University of Maryland, College Park, USA.


1. Experiments were conducted to study the welfare and meat quality effects of shackling. In experiment 1, broilers with or without leg problems were shackled (S) for 4 min on a moving line and blood sampled; or handled (H), returned to the crate and sampled after 4 min; or sampled immediately after removal from the crate (control, C). 2. Plasma corticosterone (CORT) concentrations, as measured by radioimmunoassay, were highest in S and lowest in C, while the H group was intermediate. Leg problems had no effect on CORT. 3. In experiment 2, tonic immobility (TI) was induced in broilers after 2 min inverted handling to determine fear responses. One week later, the birds were fasted, transported and then shackled on a moving shackle line for 0, 1, 3 or 4 min, then unshackled and blood sampled. Wing flapping during shackling was also quantified. 4. Shackling time did not influence CORT concentrations. There was a negative correlation (r = -0.714) between CORT and wing flapping duration in the 1 min shackling treatment. There was no relationship between TI and wing flapping or CORT. 5. In experiment 3, broilers were exposed to two food withdrawal (FW) times (food withdrawn overnight or during crating only) and held for 4 h prior to processing, shackled (0, 2 or 4 min shackling time, ST), and then killed by exsanguination. Blood samples were collected during the neck-cut. Pectoralis superficialis and Supracoracoideus samples were either collected after 15 min and individually quick frozen (IQF) in liquid nitrogen or collected at 4 h post mortem from carcases chilled on slush ice (COI). 6. CORT increased significantly with increased ST. There was a FW x ST interaction effect on the initial pH of fillets. ST influenced the b*, chroma and Hue values of the COI fillets. FW influenced the L* and Hue values of both IQF and COI fillets as well as the a* value of the COI fillets. 7. In summary, CORT increased with shackling time when birds were held after transport. FW and ST also influenced the colour of fillets, although it is not clear whether these changes are perceptible to the consumer. The duration of wing flapping during shackling did not appear to be related to fearfulness, although it was influenced by properties of the shackle line. We suggest that there be a maximum time lapse between shackling and stunning or killing of 2 min to minimise stress and meat quality changes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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