Evaluation of head-only electrical stunning for practical application: Assessment of neural and meat quality parameters

E. Lambooij, H.G.M. Reimert, V.A. Hindle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Behavioral and neural responses of 47 broilers to head-only single-bird electrical stunning were evaluated using cone-shaped restrainers in which the broilers were suspended by their feet. Meat quality assessment was performed on 2 groups of 25 broilers stunned using the head-only method or a conventional water bath method. Hemorrhages were quantified by a visual grading system. On electroencephalogram recordings, a general epileptiform insult was observed when a set current of at least 190 mA (~100 V, 50 Hz) was applied for a duration of 0.5, 3, or 5 s. This insult showed a tonic phase, followed by a clonic phase and an exhaustion phase, after which the birds recovered. On the basis of visual observation, these birds may have been unconscious for approximately 30, 44, or 65 s. According to correlation dimension analysis scores, these durations were 18, 12, and 16 s, respectively. Within a confidence limit of 95%, taking into account the number of birds with a reliable electroencephalogram, the chance of an effective stun lies between 0.95 and 1.00 with an average current of 190 ± 30 mA. After stunning, the electrocardiogram revealed fibrillation. The heart rate decreased significantly (P <0.05) after stunning but recovered thereafter. The pH after chilling was (P <0.05) lower in the group stunned head only compared with the water bath group. The percentages of fillets free of blood splashes were 80% in carcasses of head-only-stunned birds and 16% in carcasses from broilers stunned in the commercial water bath. It was concluded that broilers were insensible and unconscious after head-only electrical stunning using pin-electrodes. Because of the risk that broilers can rapidly regain consciousness after stunning, cutting the neck immediately after stunning is recommended. It is also recommended that the head-only equipment be developed further for practical application and commercial use.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2551-2558
JournalPoultry Science
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • impedance recordings
  • extracellular volume
  • broiler-chickens
  • water bath
  • brain
  • frequency
  • welfare
  • muscles


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