Tyson Foods: Inhumane and Unsustainable

chicken-turkey-tyson-controlled-atmosphere-killing-humaneTyson Foods does not support a method for slaughtering animals called Controlled Atmosphere Killing. Controlled Atmosphere Killing consists of chickens (in the case of Tyson) or other animals being placed in a container in which the atmosphere completely lacks oxygen and is made up of asphyxiate gas (argon, nitrogen, or carbon dioxide). It causes the animals to lose consciousness. The process is considered humane because argon and nitrogen apparently cause no pain. The whole process is quick and takes about 30 seconds to make the chicken (or other animal) unconscious). The process is also more sustainable and even more profitable to companies. Even People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) supports Controlled Atmosphere Killing.

Unfortunately the usual method of slaughtering poultry in North America is much less humane and not eco-friendly. The animals are dumped and shackled while still alive and run through a bath of electrically charged water, which immobilizes them. Then, their throats are slit with a machine. After that, they are de-feathered in tanks of scalding hot water. The process is energy intensive, as well as more painful and degrading to the animals. The process is also much less safe and contamination is less likely to occur.

The Human Methods of Slaughter Act is the only federal law that protects animals from abuse when they are being slaughtered, but that does not apply to chickens or turkeys, which make up 95 percent of the animals slaughtered in the United States. In 2007 alone, 9 billion birds were slaughtered for food.  The current method is both inhumane and ineffective; sometimes birds are de-feathered while still alive and they can still feel pain while stunned. It is high time for reform of poultry slaughter and Controlled Atmosphere Killing is the way to go.

Tyson does not believe that Controlled Atmosphere Killing is more humane, but that is likely because the gas technology is expensive and it would cost around 3 million dollars to convert its operations. Tyson processes birds for mass consumption, whereas companies like Bell & Evans and Mary’s Chickens produce higher quality premium chickens and they also happen to use the methods of Controlled Atmosphere Killing.  Other benefits of Controlled Atmosphere Killing include the elimination (not just merely reduction) of injury to the birds, which in turn eliminated contamination caused by stressed birds. For instance, when hung upside down before being dunked the birds usually defecate on themselves. The employees monitoring the process are also less prone to stress, because they process is silent and sanitary.  

Since 2002 PETA has been pressuring major food retailers like McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Kroger, Safeway, and Wal-Mart, to switch from electric immobilization to Controlled Atmosphere Killing methods. While Tyson is the largest chicken manufacturer (as well as of beef and pork), it feels the switch would be unsustainable. The unsustainability they refer to is only in their business expenses, which would fund the switch. The Controlled Atmosphere Killing process uses less energy and is more humane, but it also happens to be more expensive, which is Tyson’s main motivation for resistance.

Chipolte, Bon Appetit, Burger King, Wendy’s Carl’s Junior, Hardee’s, Popeye’s, and Safeway already give purchase preference and consideration to Controlled Atmosphere Killing. Tyson remains skeptical about the process.

To encourage Tyson to participate in more human and eco-friendly processes, sign this consumer-based petition at Moxy Vote. If Tyson changes their ways the United States could potentially join the ranks of the United Kingdom and the European Union. In the UK, 75 percent of turkeys and 25 percent of chickens are killed using human Controlled Atmosphere Killing methods. In the EU, 10 percent of all birds are slaughtered using Controlled Atmosphere Killing. On top of that the United States Department of Agriculture approves the Controlled Atmosphere Killing method for the slaughter of birds. 

Photo credit: cdc.gov/niosh/topics/avianflu/image/avianmain1.gif

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