[Federal Register: September 28, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 187)]
[Notices]               
[Page 56624-56626]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr28se05-28]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Food Safety and Inspection Service

[Docket No. 04-037N]

 
Treatment of Live Poultry Before Slaughter

AGENCY: Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice.

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SUMMARY: The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is reminding all 
poultry slaughter establishments that, under the Poultry Products 
Inspection Act (PPIA) and Agency regulations, live poultry must be 
handled in a manner that is consistent with good commercial practices, 
which means they should be treated humanely. Although there is no 
specific federal humane handling and slaughter statute for poultry, 
under the PPIA, poultry products are more likely to be adulterated if, 
among other circumstances, they are produced from birds that have not 
been treated humanely, because such birds are more likely to be bruised 
or to die other than by slaughter.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lynn Dickey, PhD, Director, 
Regulations and Petitions Policy Staff, Office of Policy, Program, and 
Employee Development, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Cotton Annex 
Building, 300 12th Street, SW., Room 112, Washington, DC 20250-3700; 
(202) 720-5627.

Comments

    FSIS invites interested persons to submit comments on this notice. 
Submit comments by October 28, 2005. Comments may be submitted by any 
of the following methods:
     Mail, including floppy disks or CD-ROM's, and hand- or 
courier-delivered items: Send to Docket Clerk, U.S. Department of 
Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, 300 12th Street, SW., 
Room 102 Cotton Annex, Washington, DC 20250.
    All submissions received must include the Agency name and docket 
number 04-037N. All comments submitted in response to this notice, as 
well as research and background information used by FSIS in developing 
this document, will be available for public inspection in the FSIS 
Docket Room at the address listed above between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 
p.m., Monday through Friday. The comments also will be posted on the 
Agency's Web site at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/regulations/2004_Notices_Index/
.


SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

The Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA) and Implementing Regulations

    FSIS considers humane methods of handling animals and humane 
slaughter operations a high priority and takes seriously any violations 
of applicable laws and regulations. In poultry operations, employing 
humane methods of handling and slaughtering that are consistent with 
good commercial practices increases the likelihood of producing 
unadulterated product.
    FSIS regulations describe the operating procedures that poultry 
processors must follow to ensure sanitary processing, proper 
inspection, and the production of poultry products that are not 
adulterated. Under 9 CFR 381.71, FSIS condemns poultry showing, on ante 
mortem inspection, certain diseases or conditions. Bruising is one 
condition that may result in condemnation (9 CFR 381.89). Bruises are 
likely to result when birds are not treated humanely.
    Moreover, the PPIA (21 U.S.C. 453(g)(5)), as well as the Agency's 
regulations (9 CFR 381.90), provide that carcasses of poultry showing 
evidence of having died from causes other than slaughter are considered 
adulterated and condemned. The regulations also require that poultry be 
slaughtered in accordance with good commercial practices, in a manner 
that results in thorough bleeding of the poultry carcass, and ensures 
that breathing has stopped before scalding so that the birds do not 
drown (9 CFR 381.65(b)). Compliance with these requirements helps 
ensure that poultry are treated humanely.

The Reason FSIS Is Issuing This Notice at This Time

    FSIS is issuing this notice because there has been considerable 
congressional and public interest in the humane treatment of animals, 
including poultry. As FSIS explained in the September 9, 2004, Federal 
Register, in recent years, Congress has taken various actions to 
strengthen USDA's resources and to ensure that FSIS enforces the 
statutory provisions concerning the humane handling and slaughter of 
livestock (69 FR 54625). In addition, the U.S. Department of 
Agriculture has received several letters from members of Congress 
expressing concerns regarding the humane treatment of poultry and 
supporting legislation to include provisions for the humane treatment 
of poultry in the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA). The HMSA of 
1978 (7 U.S.C.1901 et seq.) requires that humane methods be used for 
handling

[[Page 56625]]

and slaughtering livestock but does not include comparable provisions 
concerning the handling and slaughter of poultry.
    In the September 9, 2004, Federal Register, FSIS also explained 
that, in addition to this congressional interest, FSIS has received 
over 20,000 letters from the public (individuals, consumer 
organizations, and animal welfare organizations) over the last few 
years expressing concerns regarding the humane treatment of livestock 
(69 FR 54626). Some of these letters also expressed concerns regarding 
the humane treatment of poultry. In addition, the U.S. Department of 
Agriculture has received nearly 13,000 e-mail messages supporting 
legislation to include provisions for the humane treatment of poultry 
in the HMSA.
    Finally, FSIS received a petition from the Animal Legal Defense 
Fund, dated November 21, 1995, requesting that FSIS amend the Federal 
poultry products inspection regulations to require humane standards of 
slaughter for poultry. FSIS denied the petition because, as is 
explained above, there is no specific federal humane handling and 
slaughter statute for poultry. However, as is also explained above, the 
PPIA and Agency regulations do require that live poultry be handled in 
a manner that is consistent with good commercial practices, and that 
they not die from causes other than slaughter.

Undesirable Consequences of Not Handling Poultry in Accordance With 
Good Commercial Practices

    The abuse of poultry by killing them by an unacceptable method or 
by treating them in a manner that is not consistent with good 
commercial practices may render the poultry product adulterated and, 
hence, not acceptable for human food. The dead birds are considered to 
be cadavers (carcasses of poultry showing evidence of having died from 
causes other than slaughter) and are condemned. These carcasses are not 
of good quality, are undesirable, and are of no profitable advantage to 
establishments, as they are not marketable and could not be sold. In 
contrast, the use of good commercial practices tends to produce poultry 
that is processed according to federal requirements, and that is 
wholesome and marketable.
    It is a prohibited act to slaughter poultry in any way that is not 
in compliance with the PPIA (21 U.S.C. 458(a)(1)). If birds hung on the 
slaughter line expire prior to slaughter due to mishandling, or are 
being killed in a manner that does not comply with good commercial 
practices, the resultant product is adulterated under the PPIA.

FSIS Perspective on the Treatment of Poultry

    Many poultry operations may not be aware of industry guidelines 
pertaining to the treatment of poultry at slaughter. FSIS has included 
a list of references at the end of this notice that may assist poultry 
slaughter establishments in considering means of assessing or improving 
their handling and slaughter procedures. One method poultry operations 
may wish to examine is a systematic approach to ensuring that poultry 
is handled and slaughtered in a manner that is consistent with good 
commercial practices. By a ``systematic approach,'' FSIS means one in 
which establishments focus on treating poultry in such a manner as to 
minimize excitement, discomfort, and accidental injury the entire time 
that live poultry is held in connection with slaughter. Establishments 
can achieve such an approach by:
    (1) Assessing under what circumstances poultry may experience 
excitement, discomfort, or accidental injury while being handled in 
connection with slaughter;
    (2) Taking steps to minimize the possibility of such excitement, 
discomfort, and accidental injury; and
    (3) Evaluating periodically how poultry are being handled and 
slaughtered to ensure (a) that any excitement, discomfort, or 
accidental injury is being minimized; (b) that all poultry are 
slaughtered in a manner that results in thorough bleeding of the 
poultry carcass; and (c) that breathing has stopped before scalding.
    In the first step of a systematic approach, establishments conduct 
an assessment of where handling problems may occur. They would consider 
such factors as (1) whether they are providing training for their 
employees in handling live poultry, (2) whether feed and water 
withdrawal is kept to the minimum level consistent with good processing 
practices, (3) whether they have appropriately designed and maintained 
facilities for bird delivery to the establishment, (4) whether holding 
areas are equipped with an adequate number of fans to ensure proper 
ventilation for birds, (5) whether stunning equipment (if applicable) 
and killing equipment are constantly monitored to ensure proper 
functioning for humane processing, (6) whether all poultry are dead 
before entering the scalder, and (7) whether establishment personnel 
and equipment handle poultry in a manner that minimizes broken legs and 
wings. These factors are based on information provided in the National 
Chicken Council Animal Welfare Guidelines and Audit Checklist, which is 
included in the list of references at the end of this notice.
    As a second step of a systematic approach, establishments determine 
whether their facilities are designed and maintained to prevent 
excitement, discomfort, and accidental injury to poultry the entire 
time that live poultry is held in connection with slaughter.
    In the third step, establishments periodically evaluate their 
handling methods to ensure that their employees are in fact minimizing 
excitement, discomfort, or accidental injury to live poultry, that 
their methods ensure all poultry are slaughtered in a manner that 
results in thorough bleeding of the carcass, and that their methods 
ensure poultry breathing has stopped before scalding.

Additional Public Notification

    Public awareness of all segments of rulemaking and policy 
development is important. Consequently, in an effort to ensure that the 
public and in particular minorities, women, and persons with 
disabilities, are aware of this notice, FSIS will announce it on-line 
through the FSIS Web page located at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/regulations/2005_Notices_Index/.
 FSIS also will make copies 

of this Federal Register publication available through the FSIS 
Constituent Update, which is used to provide information regarding FSIS 
policies, procedures, regulations, Federal Register notices, FSIS 
public meetings, recalls, and other types of information that could 
affect or would be of interest to constituents and stakeholders. The 
update is communicated via Listserv, a free e-mail subscription service 
consisting of industry, trade, and farm groups, consumer interest 
groups, allied health professionals, scientific professionals, and 
other individuals who have requested to be included. The update also is 
available on the FSIS Web page. Through Listserv and the Web page, FSIS 
is able to provide information to a much broader, more diverse 
audience.
    In addition, FSIS offers an electronic mail subscription service 
that provides an automatic and customized notification when popular 
pages are updated, including Federal Register publications and related 
documents. This service is available at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/news_and_events/email_subscription/
 and allows FSIS customers to sign up 

for subscription options in eight categories. Options range from 
recalls to export information to regulations, directives and notices.

[[Page 56626]]

Customers can add or delete subscriptions themselves and have the 
option to password protect their accounts.

References

    The following sources are available for review in the FSIS Docket 
Room, Cotton Annex, 300 12th Street, SW., Room 102, Washington, DC 
20250 between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
    Food Marketing Institute/National Council of Chain Restaurants 
Animal Welfare Audit Program. Information about the program is 
available at http://www.awaudit.org/.

    National Chicken Council Animal Welfare Guidelines and Audit 
Checklist. Available at http://www.nationalchickencouncil.com/.

    Thaler, A.M., ``The United States Perspective Towards Poultry 
Slaughter.'' Poultry Science. February 1999. v. 78 (2), p. 298-301.

    Done at Washington, DC on September 23, 2005.
Barbara J. Masters,
Administrator.
[FR Doc. 05-19378 Filed 9-27-05; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 3410-DM-P