Institute to teach humane handling in meat industry

Posted November 10, 2022

A new program at UW-River Falls will teach meat industry workers in Wisconsin about the humane handling of livestock.

The Humane Handling Institute will offer two-and-a-half-day long workshops that will hopefully have a soft launch this spring and a full launch next fall. The HHI created the program to provide a place where meat industry workers can go to gain hands-on training in the effective handling and stunning of animals before and at the point of slaughter, according to UWRF Associate Professor Kurt Vogel, who also is the director of the HHI.

Vogel received a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to create the institute.

UWRF staff and students will also be invited to participate.

“One of the things that I have tried really hard to do is help students to get a view of what the world looks like outside of our campus, and this is one of the ways that we can do that,” said Vogel.

Vogel described the purpose of the program: “We set out to develop a series of courses that would help industry personnel to shore up their skills and to learn some new things.”

The HHI was created to help people who work in the state’s meat industry maintain compliance with humane handling laws. According to Vogel, the HHI tracked the occurrence of noncompliance with the humane handling law within the industry since 2014. The research showed that humane stunning is a consistent challenge that is fixable.

One unique thing about the program is that it will not be relying on live animals for the hands-on learning aspect of the workshops.

“We’re using models and dummies and tissues of animals that have already been slaughtered,” Vogel said, “so that these people can learn without feeling that pressure of not messing up and causing harm and they can develop the skills they need so that when they start do the job their skilled enough to do it well.”

The program also received funding from the state to provide seats for one person from each of Wisconsin’s 120 slaughter establishments to attend two of the courses that are most critical for compliance of the Humane Slaughter Act, according to Vogel.

“Animal welfare is a major part of the sustainability for the industry,” Vogel said. “If the suffering of animals is a consistent part of raising them for food then it is not a sustainable system and so from my perspective the HHI will help to make sure that we ensure the sustainability of the industry and that we’re making the transition from a live animal to meat in a way that is ethically justifiable.”