Case: Broilers given a better last ride

Scientists and private enterprises join forces to improve the transportation of broilers to the slaughterhouse. This will boost animal welfare, the environment and food quality – and will save the poultry industry 40m DKK.

By Janne Hansen

The conditions of the last ride in the life of a broiler to the slaughterhouse can vary greatly depending on the weather. The production company Linco Food Systems and Aarhus University will try to improve this and, with support from the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark, they have teamed up to develop a new climate-controlled transport system that will improve chicken welfare, reduce stress levels and make the transport more efficient.

The project partners expect the new system to provide added value and cost savings of about 0.40 DKK per broiler, corresponding to a saving of 40m DKK for the Danish poultry industry as a whole.

As things are now, chickens are transported in crates stacked in racks on a truck. The boxes usually have perforated sides and bottoms to ensure some ventilation. The load is ventilated purely by natural ventilation and thus depends on wind conditions and vehicle speed.

A new climate-controlled transport system will make it possible to control the temperatures and humidity levels which the chickens are exposed to during transport.

In addition to the climate-controlled transport system, a new design of the transport crates will mean that the space in the truck can be used optimally since the animal density is then independent of the outdoor temperature. The number of transports can thus be reduced by 36 percent, equivalent to 1.0 to 1.5 million km by truck and a reduction in emissions of 1000-1500 t CO2 per year.

The project participants expect chicken mortality during transport to fall by 30 percent – from 0.3 percent to 0.2 percent. When chickens are exposed to stress it may affect the meat quality leading to pale, soft and exudative (PSE) meat. The project partners expect that the incidence of PSE meat will be halved from the current 30 percent to 15 percent.

The scientists from Aarhus University will examine and validate the physiological effects on the chickens and the meat quality.

Project facts 
The project “Sustainable, efficient transport of broilers using a new climate controlled transport system” is led by the production company Linco Food Systems. Other project participants include Aarhus University, the food enterprise HKScan Denmark and SEGES Organic farming. The three-year project has received a 7m DKK grant from the Green Development and Demonstration Programme under the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark.