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Processing Technology

How to avoid bruising during electrical poultry stunning

By Fabio Nunes on 5/1/2007
In this article:
Defect dilemmas
Broiler uniformity
Monitoring parameters
Once broilers reach market age they undergo a sequence of operations, from the
farm through the plant, which aims to turn out a large variety of chicken meat
products at the end of the processing cycle.
Each of these operations hides a handful of threats that to final product quality.
These threats, if not properly and, mostly, preventively managed, can easily inflict
damage to the birds and diminish the saleable quantity and quality of each
With rising demand for boneless meat to formulate further-processed products
and the preference of parts over whole carcasses, electrical stunning is of special
interest in this context.
Broilers are electrically stunned for humanitarian reasons to render them
unconscious prior to killing for safety reasons to reduce the risk of
accidents among operators; and for quality reasons electrical stunning
accelerates the heartbeat, improves bleeding and, by extension, reduces the
amount of blood in the carcasses and organs.

Defect dilemmas
But electrical stunning has a potentially serious side effect. If not properly
controlled, it can cause bruises, broken bones and blood spots on breast meat
and tenders.
These defects, which result from the sudden and somewhat strong contraction of
the carcasses during stunning, are of significant economical importance. Blood
spots on meat are an unacceptable defect and must be trimmed off and disposed
of before the meat is either packed or further processed.
Simple in concept, electrical stunning is one of the most complex operations in
the processing chain given the number of variables that interact during stunning.
These include bird size, flock uniformity, dry or wet birds and skull bone
These factors combined make it almost impossible to fully neutralize the potential
problems associated with electrical stunning. Minimizing these potential
problems, however, can be achieved by understanding the technical aspects of
the process and equipment operation.

Broiler uniformity
Electrical stunning requires that only the head of the broilers sink into and drag
along the water trough. Non-uniform flocks require the stunner to be adjusted for
the smaller birds, which are the most critical ones, causing the larger birds to sink
breast-deep into the water. In this case, the electrical current instead of flowing


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through its expected path from the head to the feet will flow through the
wings and breast meat causing damage to those parts.
The birds should be as calm as possible to ensure proper position as they enter
the stunner. To achieve this, the line should be as level as possible, so avoid
changes in elevation.
In addition, there should be no overflow of water at the entrance to the stunner as
this might pre-stun the birds causing them to strain muscles and be improperly
stunned as a result. Inadequate stunning can lead to a violent reaction to the
kill/cut, which can affect the quality and integrity of the wings.
Understanding the importance of electrical stunning in the context of the entire
process and its potential impact on the quality of the carcasses is critical for
those supervising the process. Companies should provide training programs,
understandable literature and technical references to improve understanding of
the process to secure good results.
Stunners must be equipped with a wrench to allow up and down adjustment to
cope with flock-size variation. A constant and proper concentration of salt in the
water reduces the water's electrical resistance, which increases during operation
as a result of dirt that comes along with the feathers, and improves the stunning
efficacy. Cabinet construction is also important because the saline solution will
corrode any metal other than stainless steel.

Monitoring parameters
Voltmeter, amp meter and frequency meter must be available to monitor the
stunning parameters. In addition, they must be periodically calibrated to ensure
accu-racy. The lower the operational settings voltage, current and frequency
the lower the expected impact of the stunning on carcass quality.
There are no universal standards, so one must test the overall efficacy of the
process by initially using 25 to 28V, 10 mA and 350 Hz to stun the broilers. These
settings can be either increased or lowered to improve results. It is important to
only adjust one variable at a time so that you know which one produced the
observed effect.
Bird size must be considered when setting the voltage, current and frequency
since the birds provide electrical resistance the heavier the birds, the higher
the electrical resistance of their bodies. So, don't expect both males and females
or light and heavy birds to require the same setting for stunning.
Properly stunned birds present a classical posture absence of convulsion,
stretched feet toes, wings stuck to the body, and "S" shaped neck. As a rule of
thumb, from time to time remove a couple of stunned birds from the shackles and
place them on the floor. If they recover and stand up by themselves in
approximately 120 seconds it is a somewhat precise indication the settings used
are working.
Develop process indices for the cut-up room to monitor the quality of the parts
and to score the presence of blood on them. Establishing a consistent channel
between cut-up room and the live processing supervisors to communicate this
information is quite helpful in keeping track of stunning and will eventually allow
problem correction on a real time basis.

Reader resources:
Search Supplier Directory: Stunner, Post
Search Supplier Directory: Stunner, Pre


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