By Elizabeth Cook

(KPIX 5) — A couple of California meat companies are earning positive recognition from animal activists. It’s not just for how they are feeding and housing their animals, but how they’re killing them.

At the Belcampo Meat Co., every cut comes from a humanely raised and slaughtered animal.

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“We honestly believe it’s the best way to eat meat,”said Belcampo Meat Co. President Bronwen Hanna-Korpi.

Even with higher than normal prices, business is booming.

“If you can buy it from someone who is really looking after the animal, I think that’s really important,” one customer said.

A new survey finds nine out of ten U.S. consumers want humane meat, largely because of videos exposing the slaughterhouse abuses.

Animal expert Temple Gradin has designed systems that reduce the stress and fear felt by livestock on the way to slaughter.

Gradin says it’s the right thing to do, but it also improves meat quality.

“If cattle get all excited the light five minutes before slaughter, they’re more likely to have tough meat,” she said.

Federal law already requires humane slaughter to prevent the needless suffering of animals. But a recent government audit shows gruesome violations do occur. In addition, federal law does not cover poultry.

“This is a gap in the law that should shock the American conscious,” said Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle.

One California poultry farmer was shocked into action.

“We do this because it is the right thing to do,” said David Pittman, who runs Mary’s Chicken in San Joaquin Valley.

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From egg to farm, they do things differently.

“We need to make sure we are doing everything we can to have the bird have the most humane lifestyle possible,” Pittman said.

But it’s how Mary’s Chickens are treated at slaughter that’s winning praise from the Humane Society and even PETA.

Traditional processing includes shackling live birds upside down, stunning them before they are slaughtered.

At Mary’s, the birds are moved in crates through chambers slowly filled with carbon. The CO2 puts them to asleep. When the birds emerge, they remain in a deep sleep as they’re hung upside down for processing.

“It makes for a much more humane process to handle the bird when they can not feel and know what is going on,” Pittman said.

The system costs about $3 million. As for Belcampo, the company consulted with Professor Gradin. They process a few cows a week in a quiet room using a cap and bolt pistol that instantly destroys the brain.

“There’s no screaming, no mooing, it’s very calm,” Hanna-Korpi said.

To ensure their methods are humane, both Mary’s and Belcampo are certified by independent third parties recognized by the Humane Society.

Gradin says many large companies do an excellent job and that it’s not just the right equipment, but right management as well.



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Elizabeth Cook