AMS Tightens Animal Stunning Rules
June 20, 2014

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agriculture Marketing Service (AMS) sent notice to beef, pork and lamb slaughter facilities that it is updating its animal handling and welfare (AHW) purchase specifications in a move that allows zero tolerance for missed stuns or animals regaining sensibility following stunning.

AMS purchases meat products for federal food programs, including the school lunch program. This notice applies to facilities that sell products to the agency.

In a "Notice to the Trade," AMS Deputy Administrator Craig Morris outlined the following changes:
  • During an AMS AHW audit, any observation of a missed stun or of an animal regaining sensibility following stunning will result in a failed audit. This zero-tolerance requirement is consistent with the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, in which any missed stun is a violation of the act.
  • Upon completion of an AMS AHW audit of an organization, the auditor will provide written notification of audit findings to organization officials and to Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) officials during the exit interview.
  • Any official enforcement action issued by FSIS for missed stuns and/or animals regaining sensibility following stunning will result in an AHW audit by AMS. In addition to these updates, AMS is posting on its website data for the number of missed stuns and animals regaining sensibility following stunning, as observed during AMS AHW audits.
Updated AHW purchase specifications are available at www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5107995. Audit data are available at www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5107996.