A breast support conveyor has the potential to improve bird welfare by avoiding the need to invert and suspend broilers by their legs as they move from the point of shackling to entry into the electric waterbath. To evaluate its effect on welfare under commercial conditions, a breast support conveyor was installed under the conventional shackle line of a small poultry processing plant. A structured assessment of the behaviour of the birds indicated a significant decrease in struggling and wing flapping at the point of shackling, on the straight conveyor and at entry into the waterbath. This resulted in a lower prevalence of red wing tips and bruising in the first wing joint. The shackle line and conveyor in this installation, however, passed around a 90° corner, which appeared to cause more disturbance to the birds on the conveyor than to comparable birds suspended from shackles in the traditional manner. The results indicate that a breast support conveyor has the potential to improve bird welfare on straight shackle lines and that, because struggling activity and duration following shackling are reduced, the time between shackling and stunning could also be reduced using this method, further improving bird welfare. Breast support conveyors should not be used when the shackle lines have sharp bends.
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Provenance not commissioned; externally peer reviewed