Broiler chickens are transported to processing plants that are inspected by federal or provincial government officials.
At the plant, the first step is for birds to be “stunned.” This ensures they are unconscious and unable to feel pain before they are slaughtered. There are two different methods that are commonly used: electric and gas stunning. Both methods are humane and are approved in international animal welfare guidelines.
With the first method, the chickens are exposed to an electrical current which causes them to lose consciousness. With gas stunning, the birds are placed in a chamber which gradually introduces carbon dioxide or a mixture of different gases which causes the birds to lose consciousness. The rest of the process is the same in both cases. With the birds now unable to feel pain, an automatic knife cuts the carotid artery and jugular vein. It is only after this stage, when the chickens are actually dead, that they are placed in hot water so the feathers can be removed.
The carcasses are then cleaned and packaged, ready for sale to retail, restaurants or foodservice. In some cases, the chicken is further processed into stews, frozen dinners, or ready-to-cook products like chicken wings.
There is ongoing research on ways to reduce fear or distress in chickens when they are being caught, transported and handled at the processing plant. This research includes alternative ways to stun and kill the birds and identifying risk factors which impact welfare during transportation.