North America embraces ATLAS and CAS SmoothFlow

Investments underscore commitment to animal well-being


US and Canadian poultry processors are investing in Marel’s ATLAS and CAS SmoothFlow systems to bring efficiency and animal well-being on a higher level. Consumer demand and the need to lower production cost per bird are behind the decision to take these sustainable measures.

There are many aspects of ATLAS which convinced American processors to turn to this pinnacle of humane live bird handling. It all starts on the farm, where the extremely large opening of the SmartStack transport module makes loading easier for the crew and friendlier to birds. SmartStack trays also feature the most headroom available on the market. AirFlo floors offer plenty of grip, ventilation, as well as drainage for dirt allowing birds to sit dry. All of these characteristics contribute to a smooth, comfortable and safe trip on the truck.

CO2 Footprint

In addition to animal well-being, ATLAS also improves efficiency and reduces CO2 footprint. Despite offering the largest tray height in the industry [27cm, 10.6"], SmartStack can transport the most birds per square foot. This is thanks to the bottom layer, which doubles as a pallet. An important consequence is that fewer truck movements are necessary to transport the same number of birds, emitting less carbon dioxide. For larger poultry processors, cost savings can add up to enormous amounts of money, which can certainly be a decisive argument.

Overall approach

Marel has committed itself to supporting poultry processors in optimizing all steps of live animal handling, even when no equipment is involved. This is an overall approach, with multiple measures available to make the entire process–from catching, loading and transport to arrival at the plant–as unstressed as possible for the broilers. Processors are free to decide for themselves whether they are willing to invest in such a program. This can include covering the sides of trailers with curtains and/or installing a lairage. The lairage option may differ per region. It’s all about imitating the farmhouse environment, offering the birds a similar ‘comfort zone’ with the same conditions as their former habitat. A lairage area can be a temperature-controlled hall, but also an outdoor shelter, as long as it’s protected from cold, heat, wind or precipitation.

Respect and dignity

SmartStack modules are transferred to the ATLAS destacking device. It carefully unstacks all layers tray by tray. Each tray is then conveyed individually and gently towards CAS SmoothFlow. North American processors are committed to ensuring maintenance of the highest standards of animal well-being. All food animals deserve respect and dignity prior to harvesting. Commitment to both ATLAS and CAS SmoothFlow systems reflects this ideal.


ATLAS CAS Overview

A trend towards CAS

Both electric and CAS stunning systems are approved, proven and acceptable for humane poultry processing. Until now, most North American poultry plants have used electric Water Bath Stunning to render animals insensible to pain before processing. Today, a growing number of consumers are in favor of the most humane anesthetization process. In their turn, American processors are committing more and more to converting their plants to CAS  stunning, which means that there is no longer any need to shackle conscious birds upside down.

Consumer demand for wholesome, nutritious animal protein is on the rise in North America. Processors are able to meet these expectations with the CAS system, which helps reduce stress when handling chicken, resulting in a higher quality and more consistent product.

To calmly sedate

Marel Poultry’s CAS SmoothFlow uses a unique mixture of carbon dioxide (CO2) and oxygen (O2), which calmly sedates broilers in multiple stages before rendering them irreversibly unconscious for downstream processing. Since birds are stunned in their tray, no bird is shackled upsidedown while conscious. This improves poultry well-being and creates a better working environment for employees.

Less stress

Processors in North America who have installed CAS SmoothFlow are seeing measurable improvements in both poultry well-being throughout the stunning process and in end product quality. Using a single straight-ahead belt without any transitions makes for a smoother and more humane process.

Controlled Atmosphere CAS Smoothflow

Podcast about CAS featuring Wayne Farms

In this podcast of Meatingplace magazine, Dr. Bryan Miller, vice president of quality assurance and food safety with Wayne Farms, refers to CAS anesthetization. 

Julie Bricher, Meatingplace: I know that you’re an advocate for processing innovation. I’d like to get your take on one of the industry’s recent tech innovations, controlled atmosphere and gas stunning systems. How have you seen these technologies benefit poultry processing operations and what do you think the future holds for them? 

Bryan Miller: Obviously, controlled atmosphere stunning, or gas stunning, has been around the U.S. turkey industry for quite some time, but it’s pretty new to those of us in the U.S. chicken industry. But about two years ago, Wayne Farms installed a controlled atmosphere stunning system at our Enterprise, Alabama facility. In fact, I think you visited there and have seen it yourself. It was at the time when we were adding a new slaughter evisceration line, and we’ve felt like [that has] been a real success. Not only does it improve the way we handle the birds in a more humane way, but it also provides, we think an improved working environment for the employees.

Another positive that’s come out of it that we weren’t really thinking about at the time, but it’s actually in the area of food safety. But the way that these drawers work, that are used to hold the live birds to the plant, they’re able to be washed and sanitized really easily. This is not something that we can do with the big, live whole units that we typically use, so we think that’s also an added benefit. I think that with the animal handling improvements, and the improved working conditions that are realized with this technology, that we’re going to see an increase in their use over the next few years.

The other thing I think is [that] this technology lends itself very readily to our automating this area of the plant. In fact, I can see an equipment company developing equipment that will singulate and orient the birds once they’ve been stunned to the controlled atmosphere system, so that they can be hang automatically without labor. So in the same way that the current labor issues of actually finding people and then retaining people, that’s driving automation and second processing. I believe it’s also going to help drive automation in this area of the plant.

JB: Can you tell us how did Wayne Farms come to the decision to implement this technology?

BM: Yes. We made the decision that we were going to provide our customers with choice. We’ve got conventional birds, and then several years ago, we started growing NAE birds or 'no antibiotic ever' birds. We said, 'Okay. We’re going to go to what some people consider that next level of animal welfare.' We started growing birds that met the Global Animal Partnership Step Two requirements. Then along with that, although controlled atmosphere stunning is not a part of the GAP standards, we just felt like that we were seeing some movement with the better chicken commitment that a lot of the best food retail and foodservice companies were making out there, we just felt like that was something that we needed to do. Again, it was a part of our strategy of just providing more choices to our customers.

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