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Catching, transport and slaughter of meat chickens

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In the U.S., most factory farmed chickens are caught by hand. This means that a “catcher” grabs the birds, and carries them upside down, by one leg. They carry 3-4 chickens in each hand.

One “catcher” can catch 1,000-1,500 chickens in one hour.

As you can imagine, the words “humane” and “compassionate” would not be used to describe this process.

You can also imagine the serious animal welfare issues involved.

Research has shown that as catchers become tired, their only goal is grabbing the birds, and loading them on the truck. Animal welfare is not a concern. It’s hard to believe that animal welfare is a concern, even when they’ve just arrived to work, and they’re fresh from a good night’s sleep.

At catching, birds are stressed and petrified. What makes the experience even scarier, is the fact that chickens raised for meat are unaccustomed to physical contact with humans.

Up to 25% of broilers are injured in the catching process.

Slaughterhouses report 5%-25% with bruises on wings, breasts or thighs.

20% of injuries were severe enough to cause a downgrade in carcass quality.

35% of broiler chickens are reported dead on arrival at slaughter, due to trauma associated with catching and transport.


Chickens are stacked in crates in backs of open trucks, with no protection from the weather. This method of transport is responsible for a high death rate en route. Despite the high mortality rate, it is still cheaper for the industry to transport the birds in open crates. Definitely no incentive to use a more humane system then.


Upon arrival at the slaughterhouse, the chickens are either pulled from their crates, or dumped onto a conveyor belt. Some miss the belt and fall on the floor, where they are left to die. Some are crushed by machinery, others die of starvation or exposure days, or weeks, later.

Inside the slaughterhouse, conscious birds are shackled and hung upside down by their feet. Although poultry are excluded from the federal Humane Slaughter Act (which requires animals to be stunned before slaughter), many slaughterhouses stun them in an electrified water bath.

To ensure carcasses are not damaged (which lessens their value), the current is usually set too low to knock the birds out. This means, many birds are conscious as they pass through the mechanical, throat cutting blade.

Since they are still moving and struggling, the blade misses. These conscious birds end up, alive, in the scalding tank.

Apparently this is so common, affecting millions of birds every year, the industry calls them "redskins."

Shameful! Instead of fixing the problem, they give it a nickname.

For more information on the catching of poultry, please click here

To read about slaughter practices, visit Farm Sanctuary's website

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