LAPS® leads the way for sustainable humane stunning of poultry

Low Atmospheric Pressure Stunning™ (LAPS®) is given approval by European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for slaughter and depopulation of poultry

TechnoCatch, LLC has achieved the honor of being the first applicant to gain approval for a novel system of stunning poultry in the European Union. This approval is outlined in the publication of the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) Scientific Opinion on Low Atmospheric Pressure System of Stunning, (2017). TechnoCatch can now add EFSA’s approval to the No Objections from the United States Department of Agriculture & Canadian Food Inspection Agency on the use of LAPS, American Veterinary Medical Association’s approval for slaughter, and the American Humane Association’s Seal of Humane Equipment. This was achieved through the research support of an international team of welfare scientists, neurophysiologists, veterinarians, physicists, and engineers from Mississippi State University, University of Arkansas, University of Glasgow, University of Edinburgh, University of Florida, and Wageningen University & Research.

TechnoCatch now looks forward to the rapid adoption of the amendment to European Commission Regulation 1099/2009 adding LAPS to the list of approved stunning methods. Such a decision will have a global impact because all poultry meat exported to the EU must also meet their legal standards. The European Union is viewed as having the highest animal welfare standards in the world and this Scientific Opinion provides a lead to the chicken meat industry to embrace LAPS which can provide unequalled protection of animals during both slaughter and depopulation.

LAPS - A novel system of stunning Poultry

  • LAPS is a novel system of killing poultry developed by TechnoCatch, LLC, USA by slow, gradual, controlled decompression causing a reduction in available oxygen and thus inducing unconsciousness so that the birds can be held at a minimal pressure leading to a non-recovery state.

LAPS - Is it the preferred method for stunning Poultry?

  • EFSA’s main outcome: LAPS was found to provide a level of animal welfare at least equivalent to existing legally approved systems.
  • To meet the high standards set by the EFSA guidance on new stunning methods TechnoCatch provided to EFSA a comprehensive set of data and behaviour, physiology, pathology, environment, physics and engineering.
  • EFSA conducted a very detailed review of the LAPS data. They found that the scientific data on LAPS exceeded that available for other stunning systems in poultry (e.g. electrical waterbath and controlled atmospheric (gas stunning)), to such a degree that they could not make direct comparisons of LAPS to these systems. EFSA therefore used an expert panel to rank welfare risks.
  • This expert panel reported that the median welfare hazard score (a low score equals a low risk of welfare hazard) for LAPS was only 3.5 whereas gas stunning (with carbon dioxide) scored 7 and electric waterbath was most hazardous with a score of 10.
  • This assessment shows that the LAPS method leads the field in humane slaughter and should be specified for high welfare poultry schemes above other stunning systems.

LAPS - World Class Innovative Science

  • Five peer reviewed scientific papers on LAPS with chickens were submitted to EFSA in 2016 in addition to four-peer reviewed scientific papers submitted in 2013. Together, they represent a most detailed scientific investigation of LAPS.
  • The studies included simultaneous measures which were made on individual chickens of their behavior, heart rate (Electrocardiograph, ECG) and quantitative analysis of brain waves (Electroencephalograph, EEG) to monitor and assess second by second the likelihood of consciousness and any signs of pain or distress.
  • Minimal evidence of pain during the induction of loss of consciousness with LAPS was found in controlled studies using analgesics (pain relief).

LAPS – How does it compare to waterbath stunning?

  • Electric Waterbath stunning has the following problems:
    1. The shackling of live birds – which is scientifically proven to be painful.
    2. If the equipment is poorly designed then birds may receive painful pre-stun shocks as they enter the waterbath stunner.
    3. Some birds may miss the water bath stunner therefore allowing these birds to be bled while sensible.
    4. There is a risk that birds may accidentally miss the automatic neck cutter which allows the birds to be scalded to death.
    5. The current flowing through the bird’s body may not be sufficient enough to ensure the bird is unconscious prior to neck cutting and scalding.
  • LAPS stuns birds in the modules used to transport them. There is no handling of live birds. The major welfare benefits of LAPS over electrical waterbath stunning systems include no live shackling, no risk of pre-shocks and LAPS reliably and irreversibly stuns all the birds.
  • LAPS avoids the handling of conscious birds, thus providing a better working environment due to lower dust and fewer injuries for the handlers, which can result in lower staff cost due to less turnover. Some gas stunning systems also share this benefit of not handling live birds.

LAPS – How does it compare to gas stunning with carbon dioxide?

  • Carbon dioxide systems vary in their design, some tip out birds onto a conveyor and some keep the birds in drawers which then go through tunnels of gas. Some systems use deep pits and some use chambers. Each system has advantages and disadvantages according to their design. There are challenges to consistently produce controlled atmospheres using gases.
  • The LAPS process is computer controlled and has highly reproducible pressure curves tailored to the ambient conditions that consistently produces a humane stun and irreversible loss of consciousness. LAPS cannot be altered by the operator to speed up the process and has full back up procedures in emergency.
  • Operational costs for carbon dioxide are higher than LAPS because of the additional transport costs, storage costs, carbon costs, and purchase costs of gas.
  • Carbon dioxide is scientifically known to be aversive to animals at even small concentrations and LAPS does not use any gases during the stunning process.

LAPS – How does it compare to gas stunning with inert gases?

  • The behavioural and physiological responses of birds to inert gases and LAPS are similar as both produce loss of consciousness due to hypoxia (lack of oxygen).
  • The LAPS process is by design more consistent as decompression produces the same reproducible level of hypoxia throughout the chamber.
  • Nitrogen is particularly difficult to retain in gas stunning systems as it has similar density as air and so is not widely used. Argon is slightly heavier than air, but the control of gas concentrations and homogeneity of the gas mixture is challenging.
  • Because no inert gases are used during LAPS it has an additional benefit over inert gas systems of having a lower carbon footprint as the energy involved in gas production and transport and storage are avoided.

LAPS leads the field in humane sustainable slaughter

  • LAPS leads the field in sustainable slaughter as it is humane, provides benefits to operators, and can assist in minimizing the environmental impact of poultry processing plants.
  • LAPS should be specified for sustainable high welfare poultry schemes.

LAPS approved for slaughter and depopulation

  • EFSA has approved LAPS for both commercial slaughter and depopulation such as on farm killing of end of life laying hens or when veterinary services need to kill poultry for disease control e.g. in response to an outbreak of Avian Influenza,
  • The EFSA Opinion is directed to the European Commission who will bring forward revisions to the annexes to Council Regulation No 1099/2009, so enabling Member States and Third countries exporting poultry meat to the EU to start using LAPS.

LAPS Unit for stunning at a processing plant

Mobile LAPS Unit for on farm depopulation


Council Regulation (EC) No. 1099/2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing lists in Annex I the stunning interventions currently allowed in the EU, together with the related conditions under which those interventions can be implemented. The regulation allows the Commission to amend Annex I, listing additional stunning interventions, provided they ensure a level of animal welfare at least equivalent to that ensured by at least one of the already approved stunning systems. EFSA was requested to perform such assessment with regard to the implementation of the Low Atmospheric Pressure Stunning (LAPS) system on broiler chickens. The ad hoc Working Group (WG) set up by EFSA performed the assessment in three main steps, i.e. checking the data provided against the criteria laid down in the EFSA Guidance (EFSA AHAW Panel, 2013); running an extensive literature search, followed by data extraction and performing a judgmental ranking exercise based on expert opinion. As main outcome, the LAPS intervention was found to be able to provide a level of animal welfare not lower than that provided by at least one of the currently allowed methods. The overall assessment of EFSA is valid ONLY under the technical conditions described in the submission and for broiler chickens, intended for human consumption, weighting less than 4 kg. Deviations from these conditions might have different consequences for animal welfare which were not assessed in this exercise. The LAPS method may, in addition to commercial slaughter, be suitable for depopulation, respecting the technical conditions defined in the present conclusions. The WG considers that a revision of the present version of the EFSA Guidance could be beneficial.

© 2017 European Food Safety Authority. EFSA Journal published by John Wiley and Sons Ltd on behalf of European Food Safety Authority.

Opinion is at :, ‘Supporting information ’ is at :


  • Council Regulation No. 1099/2009 lays down measures to protect animal welfare during killing for commercial production and for depopulation for disease control within the European Union. These measures also have to be met for any meat produced for export to the EU from third countries.
  • This Regulation is widely regarded as having the highest welfare standards globally. It allows for novel systems of stunning animals to be introduced providing that EFSA gives a positive opinion and then the European Commission can revise the Regulation by a committee procedure.

SCOPE of use of LAPS

  • The EFSA opinion does not restrict the use of LAPS to poultry larger than 4kgs or poultry other than broilers; they simply state that the assessment was made of papers which LAPS was only performed on broilers smaller than 4kgs and that any variables outside of the assessment could have consequences towards animal welfare.
  • The pressure time curves reported in the scientific papers that were considered by EFSA 2017 have been used by TechnoCatch, LLC to irreversibly stun a wide range of weights of broilers, laying hens, larger broiler breeder birds as well as turkeys weighing up to 23kgs.


  • LAPS is scalable so it can fit most poultry plants and can support a high throughput. LAPS is controlled using a purpose built Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) that is an industrial computer control system that continuously monitors the state of input devices and makes decisions based upon a custom program to control the state of output devices. This results in a highly reliable, reproducible decompression curve being produced (Holloway and Pritchard 2017). The birds are monitored by camera and the equipment by a HMI. EFSA’s opinion noted that LAPS is designed with emergency backup systems to protect bird welfare.


  • Low Atmospheric Pressure Stunning (LAPS) was developed in conjunction with Mississippi State University and the University of Arkansas. LAPS received a No Objection status from the USDA in 2010, followed by No Objection status from the CFIA in 2013.
  • Further studies also included research teams from the University of Glasgow and Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands. A submission of four peer reviewed scientific papers was made to the EU for approval of LAPS in 2013. This was rejected by EFSA, who put in place, during the period of their evaluation, new guidance detailing novel methods of evaluation. Therefore, this first submission failed EFSA’s novel eligibility criteria and its contribution to improving animal welfare was not commented on.

LAPS Scientific Team

  • TechnoCatch, LLC examined the new EFSA (2013) guidance and its team of advisers designed a multidisciplinary international research program to fully meet the requirements of the EFSA guidance. The team was coordinated by Dr David Pritchard MRCVS, an independent consultant, London, UK and included, Dr Dorothy McKeegan (Scientific Lead), University of Glasgow, UK; Dr Jessica Martin, University of Edinburgh, UK; Professor Malcolm Mitchell SRUC, UK; Dr Marien Gerritzen, Wageningen University & Research, Netherlands; Professor Emeritus Yvonne Vizzier Thaxton, Mississippi State University & University of Arkansas, USA; Dr Karen Christensen, Tyson Foods formerly University of Arkansas, USA; Professor Paul Holloway, University of Florida, USA .

LAPS Second submission to the European Commission

  • The second submission comprised five additional peer reviewed scientific papers, published in International Scientific Journals. It also included additional documentation on each paper, which EFSA requested as part of their guidelines, but which would not be eligible for publication due to scientific journal guidelines. Also included was further relevant information on the operation of LAPS to meet the novel requirements of EFSA 2013a Guidance.
  • This was delivered to the Commission in January 2016. The Commission requested an opinion from EFSA, which was accepted in May 2016. Starting in December 2016, EFSA made requests to the applicant for further information, data, statistical analyses, and other materials, which were supplied in April 2017.

EFSA Second Scientific opinion on LAPS

  • A small sub group of the EFSA Animal Health and Welfare Panel (AHWP) along with some seconded scientists and EFSA staff examined the LAPS submission, data, and other information. They conducted checks, requested from the applicant more data, information and statistical analyses; undertook a literature review and conducted a heuristic study on expert opinion on stunning systems. They then drafted the opinion, which was adopted on 25 October 2017 by the plenary of the EFSA AHWP.
  • On 21 December 2017 EFSA published their Scientific Opinion on Low atmospheric pressure system for stunning broiler chickens. EFSA Panel on Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW), EFSA JOURNAL doi: 10.2903/j.efsa.2017.5056.

References to Scientific papers on LAPS
LAPS First submission 2013

  1. McKeegan, D.E.F., Sandercock, D.A., Gerritzen, M.A. 2013. Physiological Responses to Low Atmospheric Pressure Stunning and the Implications for Welfare. Poultry Science, Vol. 92, 858-868.
  2. Vizzier-Thaxton, Y., Christensen, K.D., Schilling, M.W., Buhr, R.J. and Thaxton, J.P. 2010. A new humane method of stunning broilers using low atmospheric pressure. Journal of Applied Poultry Research, Vol. 19, 341 – 348
  3. M. W. Schilling , V. Radhakrishnan ,Y. Vizzier-Thaxton , K. Christensen ,Åò P. Joseph , J. B. Williams , and T. B. Schmidt (2012)The effects of low atmosphere stunning and deboning time on broiler breast meat quality 2012 Poultry Science 91 :3214–3222 10.3382/ps.2012-02266
  4. V. Battula, M. W. Schilling, Y. Vizzier-Thaxton, J. M. Behrends, J. B. Williams, and T. B. Schmidt (2008) The Effects of Low-Atmosphere Stunning and Deboning Time on Broiler Breast Meat Quality 2008 Poultry Science 87:1202–1210 doi:10.3382/ps.2007-00454
    EFSA AHAW Panel (EFSA Panel on Animal Health and Welfare), 2014. Scientific Opinion on the use of low atmosphere pressure system (LAPS) for stunning poultry. “EFSA Journal 2014;12(1):3488, 27 pp. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2014.3488.

LAPS Second submission 2016

  1. Nikki Mackie, Dorothy E. F. McKeegan 2016 Behavioural responses of broiler chickens during Low Atmospheric Pressure Stunning Applied Animal Behaviour Science 174 (2016) 90–986.
  2. Jessica E. Martin, Karen Christensen, Yvonne Vizzier-Thaxton, Dorothy E. F. McKeegan( 2016) Effects of analgesic intervention on behavioural responses to Low Atmospheric Pressure Stunning Applied Animal Behaviour Science 180 (2016) 157–165
  3. Jessica E. Martin, Karen Christensen, Yvonne Vizzier-Thaxton, Malcolm Mitchell, Dorothy E. F. McKeegan (2016) Behavioural, brain and cardiac responses to hypobaric hypoxia in chickens Physiology and Behavior 163 (2016) 25–36.
  4. Jessica E Martin, Karen Christensen, Yvonne Vizzier-Thaxton, Dorothy E. F. McKeegan (2016) Effects of light on responses to Low Atmospheric Pressure Stunning in broilers. British Poultry Science 57 (2016) 585–600
  5. Paul H. Holloway, David G. Pritchard (2017) Effects of ambient temperature and water vapor on chamber pressure and oxygen level during Low Atmospheric Pressure Stunning of poultry. Poultry Science (2017) 0 1–12.


29 January 2018