Temple Grandin shares humane treatment tips with P.E.I. beef producer
'Temple Grandin is kind of a like a super coach for beef plants'
An Island beef producer is taking extra steps to make sure cattle are treated as humanely as possible — right up until the last moment.
P.E.I. company Atlantic Beef Products recently had a visit from Temple Grandin, an American animal sciences professor who is famous for developing humane practices for livestock to be slaughtered.
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She was visiting the Maritimes as the keynote speaker at the Maritime Beef Conference in Moncton, N.B., last week and dropped by the company to give a few pointers.
She wants to see things from a cow's perspective, that's what she's famous for.— Russ Mallard
"It was a really big deal," said Russ Mallard, president of Atlantic Beef Products.
"If you're an athlete, you're never going to say no when an Olympian comes to help give you a few pointers. Well, Temple Grandin is kind of a like a super coach for beef plants."
Atlantic Beef Products has focused on humane practices for several years and the plant already has a number of design elements in place based on Grandin's designs.
More than half the cattle processing facilities in the United States operate using her designs, her website claims. As well, her work with animals was the subject of the 2010 Golden Globe- and Emmy-winning biopic titled after her.
Some of her designs include curved chutes, which allow cattle to move in a way that's more natural to them, textured concrete floors and more.
"Cattle don't like dark places, so we need to add light in certain places so they were always comfortable coming into the light," he said.
"We also made sure that there weren't any tiny slats where movement could be seen," Mallard said.
'She had a look at everything'
Mallard said having Grandin see the space in person offered a fresh perspective.
"She had a look at everything. She got down into the various ramps and chutes that we use. She wants to see things from a cow's perspective, that's what she's famous for," he said.
If you're an athlete, you're never going to say no when an Olympian comes to help give you a few pointers. Well, Temple Grandin is kind of a like a super coach for beef plants.— Russ Mallard
"And the fact that she was able to do that led us to some interesting observations."
Grandin's main observations involved the stunning box, where cattle are slaughtered. She noticed that animals could be bothered if they looked directly at the light in the box.
Mallard said Grandin asked him to get a piece of cardboard to diffuse the light.
"So now the light is less of a problem," he said. "Common sense, but unless you get down there and see it from her perspective, it's something that was easily missed," Mallard said.
Atlantic Beef Products plans to install a permanent solution to diffuse the light, in place of the cardboard.
Mallard said the company also plans to implement all of Grandin's suggestions, which include some quick fixes to reduce distractions — like blocking a gap through which animals might see movement, and adding a second black curtain to block off an area from view.
He expects the changes to be complete by the end of the week, and should cost no more than $400.
The changes are easy to make, he said, and hopes they'll make a big difference for the animals.