Effect of electrical stunning frequency and current waveform in poultry welfare and meat quality

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This study aimed to evaluate the effects of different stunning frequencies and electrical current waveforms on chicken welfare and meat quality. Two-hundred-thirty-two Cobb broilers, 48 d of age and 2.76 ± 0.47 live-weight, were randomly assigned into 4 stunning treatments — 2 frequencies (300 Hz and 650 Hz) and 2 current waveforms (direct current [DC] and alternating current [AC]). Broilers were electrically stunned in a water bath in a commercial slaughterhouse (70 V, 100 mA). The electronarcosis and stunning efficiency were confirmed by assessment of visual parameters (absence of rhythmic breathing, ocular reflex, and coordinated wing flapping) and blood parameters (lactate, glucose, creatine kinase, sodium, and potassium), which were measured after bleeding. The incidence of traumas and injuries was assessed after plucking. Meat quality analysis was performed in Pectoralis major (PM), with determinations of pH, breast yield (PMY), water holding capacity (WHC), water absorption capacity (WAC), thawing loss (DL), cooking loss (CL), shear force (SF), and instrumental color (a*, b*, L*, C*, and h). The interaction between waveform and frequency was significant (P < 0.05) only for lactate, sodium, and lightness (L*). Lactate and sodium levels decreased at 300 Hz-DC. Meat lightness increased at 300 Hz-DC. The individual effect of frequency was significant for glucose, creatine kinase, potassium, WHC, PMY, b*, C*, and h. Regarding waveform, AC decreased plasma glucose and DC decreased creatine kinase and WAC. In general, stunning frequency exerts greater influence than waveform on the welfare and meat quality parameters of broilers. The use of frequency at 650 Hz proved to render animals efficiently unconscious and to promote greater meat quality.

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