The company was the winner of the best innovation category of Compassion in World Farming’s Good Farm Animal Welfare Awards, which were presented today.
Hilton Seafoods (HSF) is one of the largest distributors of fresh seafood in the UK and it supplies over 100 million vannamei shrimp a year to Tesco. Shrimp are traditionally slaughtered using ice slurry but, in a bid to improve animal welfare, in June 2020 the company trialled an Optimar electrical stunner - which had been modified for use on shrimp - at a farm in Vietnam in collaboration with Amanda Seafood.
It was the first large-scale electrical stunning system used for shrimp globally and was able to process 10 tonnes of shrimp an hour. Following successful results, and a review of the outcomes by external animal welfare experts, Tesco approved the use of electrical stunning of P.vannamei in July 2020. Since then, approximately 80 percent of the P. vannamei supplied to Tesco through HSF have been electrically stunned. The ambition is to achieve 100 percent electric stun for P.vannamei in the HSF supply chain.
According to Compassion in World Farming, in addition to the welfare benefits it provides, which includes less handling and lower crowding times for the shrimp, the method was shown to stun more quickly than immersion in ice slurry, and provide a more effective and consistent stun, which reduces labour during harvest, while not being detrimental to product quality.
The system, which has been approved and rolled out across the Hilton/Tesco supply chain, will benefit more than 100 million animals in its first year.
“Hilton Seafoods UK take fish and crustacean welfare extremely seriously and actively seek out improved welfare methods and the latest research on welfare and animal handling,” said William Davies, fisheries, aquaculture and supply chain manager at Hilton Seafood UK. “Working with our supplier partners we are very happy with the performance of the shrimp stunner, enabling both improved welfare at harvest and a harvest efficiency benefit for the farmer. Awareness of crustacean sentience is growing, and the implementation of the farmed shrimp stunner adds to the existing electrical stunning we have in all the wild caught crab and lobster we purchase.”
Dr Tracey Jones, director of food business at Compassion in World Farming, said: “The sentience of crustaceans is often overlooked and in the absence of any legislation or standards, this electric stunner for shrimp, pioneered by Hilton Seafood, has the potential to benefit billions of animals if adopted more widely across the industry.”