Animal Welfare – our on-line chat with Dr. Temple Grandin

On April 23, ’02, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm EST, participated in “Ask the Expert,” an on-line chat session hosted by the American Meat Institute, AMI (now merged with the North American Meat Institute, NAMI), with the renowned expert

Dr. Temple Grandin, Ph.D.
Professional designer of livestock handling facilities and
Assistant Professor of Animal Science, Colorado State University.

The chat session addressed many points of interest for those who observe or wish to increase their observance of the Noahide prohibition of eating meat that was removed from a living animal. The unedited, full text of the chat session can be read on the AMI web site with member log-in. We have posted an edited version of the chat session below. The lines have been color-coded to indicate who is communicating each question or answer. Since time lags and interruptions are inherit in quick-paced chat sessions, we have arranged the communications into the logical flow of the discussion. Questions that were unrelated to Noahide issues have been omitted from the text that is posted here.
Dr. Grandin’s credentials: Facilities she has designed are located in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries. In North America, almost half of the cattle are handled in a center track restrainer system that she designed for meat plants. She obtained her B.A. at Franklin Pierce College and her M.S. in Animal Science at Arizona State Univ. Dr. Grandin received her Ph.D in Animal Science from the Univ. of Illinois in 1989. Today she teaches courses on livestock behavior and facility design at Colorado State Univ. and consults with the livestock industry on facility design, livestock handling, and animal welfare. She has appeared on television shows such as 20/20, 48 Hours, CNN Larry King Live, and has been featured in People Magazine, the New York Times, Forbes, and U.S. News and World Report. She has also authored over 300 articles [as of 20’02] in both scientific journals and livestock periodicals on animal handling, welfare, and facility design. Her web site educates people throughout the world about modern methods of livestock handling which will improve animal welfare and productivity.
To help you evaluate the information in this chat session, following it we have included a brief synopsis of the main considerations in fulfilling the Noahide prohibition of eating meat which was removed from a live animal, as presented in the book “The Divine Code”, by Rabbi Moshe Weiner of Jerusalem.
Tue Apr 23, ’02 10:45:39 AM [EST]

MODERATOR: Welcome to AMI’s April 23 chat. Our guest today is Dr. Temple Grandin, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Animal Sciences, Colorado State University. She will discuss hog handling and stunning techniques.

Temple Grandin: I’m happy to be here today…please fire away.
MODERATOR: PREVIOUSLY SUBMITTED QUESTION [from saschenbrand]: Could you please briefly review signs to look for when looking for return to sensibility from stunning. Specifically, what signals do NOT necessarily indicate a return to sensibility (such as hind leg spasms in hogs)?
Temple Grandin: Kicking should be ignored. The most important things to look for is spontaneous natural blinking. That means blinking live a live hog out in the stockyards. Also…there must be no righting reflex. The hog should hang straight on the rail. In electrically stunned pigs, you sometimes have eye vibration. That is usually OK. Look for three main things — straight back, floppy flacid head and no natural blinking. If you need to find out what this looks like, look at live hogs in the stockyard. There is a troubleshooting guide on insensibility on my web site at
sshaw: What is your opinion of live, unconscious hogs at the first legger (pupils not fixed/dilated, jaw tone present, corneal reflex present, no righting reflex, no vocalizing, no normal blinking) – basically unconscious, but not dead?
Temple Grandin: If the heart has stopped beating, the hog would be dead. You also need to check if breathing is present. Are there regulations in place to require checking for a stopped heart, as required by the Noahide commandments?
Temple Grandin: If an animal is completely bled out, the heart will be stopped. The Humane Slaughter Act states that the animal must be in a state of surgical anesthesia. In normal slaughtering procedure, the animal is bled out, and when you bleed out the animal, the heart will stop.
LHAMMAN: How long should an animal bleed out?
Temple Grandin: Ideally, about five minutes. One of the most important factors to ensure a good bleed out is the skill of the person doing the bleeding. Are there bleed-out regulations for poultry, as there are for livestock?
Temple Grandin: 7Laws…there are no humane slaughter regulations for poultry in the U.S., although there are voluntary industry guidelines.
MODERATOR: PREVIOUSLY SUBMITTED QUESTION [from]: An important issue remains: The Noahide Code in Genesis has 1 dietary law for Mankind: to not eat meat taken from a live animal; its heart must stop beating before flesh is removed. What is the status of commercial slaughter regarding this? What new rules could bring industry to conform with this? Can you help develop certification rules so followers of the Noahide Code could buy meat with this guarantee? I can refer you to leaders in the Noahide movement and Orthodox Rabbinate who will help.
Temple Grandin: In normal slaughter operations, the animal is bled out and the heart is stopped prior to skinning or cutting off any part of the animal. It is important to allow it to bleed out. In large plants with a power chain, there is an enforced bleed time. Small plants do not have this. A small plant must be very careful to allow the animal to completely bleed out prior to skinning or leg removal. Are the voluntary humane slaughter guidelines for poultry published, or available on the web?
Temple Grandin: There is an outline of poultry slaughter guidelines on my web site. You could also go the National Chicken Council. I do not know if it is on their web site.
LHAMMAN: Can an animal return to sensibility during bleeding?
Temple Grandin: Lhamman…that is possible if bleeding is poorly done. This is why plant management needs to supervise and do internal quality audits on animal handling and stunning.
Erika: Temple, do you have recommendations of suppliers who can provide economical electrical stunners for cattle? Are these all head only or is there such a thing as head heart, as in hogs?
Temple Grandin: Cattle electric stunning can be done either head only or head to heart. This equipment is commercially available in New Zealand. There is one problem with electrical stunning in fed feedlot cattle. It tends to increase blood spotting in the meat. In grass fed cattle, this is not problem.
saschenbrand: Can you provide any information or recommend any sources for information on proper sticking techniques to get optimal bleed-out?
Temple Grandin: The Humane Slaughter Association in England has a video that demonstrates proper sticking. If you would like contact information for the organization, go to Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW). I think if you type that in Google you’ll find it. The number one problem with sticking pigs is making an opening that is too small.
Erika: Do you know the name of any of the New Zealand cattle stunner companies?
Temple Grandin: Erika — there is a division of Jarvis that makes this equipment. For electronic amperage controlled electric pig stunning, the contact is Enterprise Equipment in St. Joseph, MO. To maintain good animal welfare, plants should do weekly welfare audits using the American Meat Institute guidelines because you manage the things that you measure.
LHAMMAN: Regarding voltage / amperage, what classifies a “stun” versus “kill”?
Temple Grandin: Lhamman, the position of the electrodes…if the electrodes are put across the head like stereo headphones, that will render the animal temporarily insensible. He will return to consciousness within about 30 seconds. When the electrodes are placed on the head and the body, in other words you’ve got both the brain and the heart in the circuit, that will cause cardiac arrest and kill most of the pigs. It’s extremely important to put the head electrode on in the correct position to ensure that the current will pass through the brain. The AMI Guidelines has a complete explanation of the two different types of pig stunning.
Erika: Temple, at what level of amperage/voltage would an electrical stunner kill a pig, versus just stun it?
Temple Grandin: Erika, more amperage and voltage is required to render the pig insensible than to cause cardiac arrest. It takes less electricity to cause cardiac arrest than it takes insensibility…it takes more amperage to knock out the brain than to knock out the heart. A better way to explain it…stunning 101…sufficient amperage must be applied to induce a gran mal epileptic seizure. If the amperage is too low, you can have a situation where you will kill the pig by cardiac arrest, but he will feel the shock and feel the heart attack. The amperages must be set at the minimums that have been verified by scientific research.
Erika: We do sometimes see where an insufficient head/heart stun can not effectively kill, and if the bleed is not complete, hogs will begin to regain consciousness after about 1 or 1 1/2 minutes after stunning!
Temple Grandin: Erika, that sounds like a bleeding problem to me. If it starts to regain consciousness during bleedout, that is usually a problem with the bleeding method. When the heart has stopped during bleeding of livestock, can movement still occur? For how long?
Temple Grandin: Yes it can….for at least several minutes. What basically is happening…the circuit that makes people and animals walk is located in the spine. This is why you get the paddling movement. Another way to put it…the brain can be destroyed almost instantly, but the body dies more slowly. Body movements can occur even when the head is removed. Can butchering sometimes commence before the movement has stopped?
Temple Grandin: It’s recommended to wait until movement has stopped before starting procedures such as leg removal. This is mainly a safety issue.
Erika: In this case, it was a combination, the stun amperage was too low for the size of the hogs being stunned and the stick hole was a little small, so the combination of the two resulted in some animals beginning to demonstrate initial signs of sensibility. This has since been corrected, by adjusting amperage and stun times.
Temple Grandin: Erika — good. That’s a situation where both the stunning and the bleeding needed to be improved.
MODERATOR: PREVIOUSLY SUBMITTED QUESTION [from Fred] : What are the stunning methods the hog industry should and is likely to go to in the future, and why do you think so?
Temple Grandin: Fred, the first one will be electronic amperage controlled and frequency controlled stunning. These new electronic circuits can greatly reduce blood spotting in the meat. There will also be some plants converting to CO2 to reduce blood spotting.
Temple Grandin: Any more questions? This has been a good discussion…
keith: What are we doing wrong? We increase the amperage, but at the same time our incidence of broken backs greatly increase.
Temple Grandin: One way to reduce broken backs is to place the body electrode on the side of the pig. Electronically controlled circuits will also help. Another thing that will help is keeping the electrode in firm contact with the pig and not sliding it. The vast majority of the severe broken backs are in extremely heavy muscled pigs.
Erika: Does placement of the body electrode a little more forward on the body, closer to the heart versus the rib also help?
Temple Grandin: Erika, yes — broken backs are more frequent if the electrode is placed too far back towards the pig’s rear.
Temple Grandin: Any more questions? If not, I’m going to sign off and say thank you to everyone. Please call me anytime with further questions.
MODERATOR: This chat is now over. Thank you all very much for your participation!