How are turkeys farmed?
There are only four stages involves when it comes to the commercial farming of turkeys :
• Breeding – Hatching – Fattening – Slaughter
Both male and female turkeys that are intended for breeding purposes are usually raised separately until they are around 28 weeks old when they will be due formatting.
For 6 – 7 months, breeding female turkeys lay up to 100 – 130 eggs until their productivity diminished. This egg will then be transported to commercial hatcheries where they will be placed inside the incubators.
After the hatching, male and female turkeys that are intended for consumption purposes will be separated and transferred into a rearing house that is made specifically for breeding purposes. Turkey eggs are being hatched within 28 days.
When they have reached 4 – 6 weeks in the rearing house, they will be moved to the finishing barns, where they will stay until they are mature enough for slaughter.
Before turkeys are considered ready for slaughter, they would have to reach 14 to 16 weeks old, while the male turkeys are considered ready for slaughter at about 19 weeks old.
Step 1: Arrival at the Processing Plant
Just as careful attention is paid to the welfare of chickens while being raised on the farm, the same is true for their short trip to the processing plant. This trip is typically less than 60 miles away, so the chickens don’t travel long distances.
Step 2: Stunning chickens
Once chickens arrive at the processing plant, workers trained in humane handling carefully suspend them by their feet on a moving line. In a matter of seconds, the chickens become calm due to “rub bars,” which provide a comforting sensation on the chicken’s chest. This, combined with low lighting, is used to keep chickens calm.
In modern poultry processing plants, every attempt is made so that chickens are processed quickly and painlessly. First, they are rendered unconscious and unaware of pain, prior to slaughter.
There is one primary method of stunning broilers prior to slaughter in the U.S. and that is “electrical stunning.” It is the predominant method of rendering chickens unconscious. There are a limited number of facilities in the U.S. that utilize controlled atmosphere stunning (CAS) systems for broilers. These systems utilize carbon dioxide to render chickens insensible. Another CAS system utilizes a reduction of atmospheric pressure to stun chickens.
When operating properly, both systems are equally humane as both require monitoring, proper adjustment and management to ensure they are meeting humane care standards.
Step 3: Slaughter
Technology makes slaughter extremely quick to minimize discomfort. While making a single cut to the throat of an unconscious bird is largely effective, should the blade miss for any reason, trained workers stand by to quickly euthanize remaining chickens. Proper maintenance of equipment and this back-up “human” system is key to a fast and humane slaughter process.
Step 4: “Evisceration”
After slaughter, birds enter a process where their feathers are removed. This is necessary in order to prepare the bird for processing. This begins by putting the chicken through a bath of hot water, which is designed to help loosen feathers. Feather removal is performed by a machine called a “picker,” which includes hundreds of little rubber “fingers” that rotate around to remove the feathers.
After feathers are removed, the birds are sent to an “eviscerating” line which removes internal organs and feet, also known as “paws.”
Every single part of the bird is used —for example, chicken feet are considered a delicacy in Asian countries, and feathers are rendered and used as protein in some animal feed.
Step 5: Cleaning and Chilling
After the organs are removed, the carcasses are then cleaned before being inspected. As an added measure to further reduce bacteria, water and an organic rinse may be applied to each bird. Any substance used for this purpose is closely regulated by both the USDA and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and has been approved for use in food production.
Research has confirmed that the use of these rinses do not pose human health concerns; rather their use does improve the wholesomeness of finished products. Before this process, which includes chilling the birds to a lower temperature to keep fresh and clean, company quality assurance and food safety personnel inspect them once again for quality, food safety and wholesomeness. They follow strict regulatory and company standards for each bird entering the chilling process.
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