As technology advances, poultry processing companies continue to develop innovative new systems and machinery while improving existing processes utilizing updated technologies to offer a complete and integrated poultry processing line.

David McNeal, national account manager for Ball Ground, Ga.-based Foodmate US, said there is an ongoing interest in reducing labor and increasing efficiency in operations.

“These are the basis for change, in addition to concise time on ROI allowing projects to move forward in today’s market conditions,” he said. “Intelligent cut-up systems allow for multiple processes to be connected throughout production. Weighing and vision grading of carcasses in real time gives processors advantages in automation. We are also able to connect cut-up modules directly to deboning systems, streamlining the process even further.”

Oliver Hahn, chief executive officer of Kansas City, Kan.-based Baader Poultry USA, said the company provides wall-to-wall solutions that are based on a plant’s specific requirements with the flexibility to process each bird according to its individual characteristics for optimal results.

“Our method chooses the best process for each individual bird through intelligent systems (human and machine) and advanced machinery,” he said. “Processors can influence production results using real time information to maximize yield and profitability.”

Wing-cutting technology should accommodate today’s larger birds.

From slaughter to packaging

Hahn notes the Baader solutions begin at the farm with its UniLoad Live Bird Handling, which utilizes a drawer system for easy catching and transporting. At the plant, birds remain in the drawers during one of its two controlled atmosphere stunning options – above ground or below ground, based on customer preferences.

“Next, birds travel through the remainder of the Baader slaughtering line highlighted by our industry leading scalding and picking technology,” Hahn said. “From there, the birds are transferred to the Baader High Speed Evisceration line, complete with automatic giblet harvesting. Afterwards, birds are sent to our Clean Air Chill system which utilizes a plenum duct system to gently chill the birds without freezing and a single layer design to prevent cross contamination.”

Then birds are weighed, classified with a vision system, and sorted for optimized cut-up performance including its new in-line anatomical Wing Segmenting and in-line Thigh Filleting System. For white meat breast deboning, the new Baader 661 is designed to be a direct replacement for the industry standard double-sided manual deboning lines.

“The machine saves skilled labor by automating complex cutting and scoring processes before manually harvesting fillets and tenders,” Hahn said. “This process utilizes the full potential of human and machine, allowing our customers to maintain control of final product quality and yield. Finally, new sorting and weighing technology from Baader enables customers to perform advanced complex packaging functions, not previously possible, to eliminate giveaway.”

At Foodmate, it all starts with the arrival systems, which are separated into drawer systems or cage systems. Travis Martin, engineering manager for the company, explains that next comes stunning (gas versus conventional electrical), then moves on to the kill line, where scalding, picking, auto transfer and evisceration takes place.

“The learning point supports a pre-check station prior to the hock cutter where all affected birds can be removed,” he said.

Next comes chilling (water versus air) and after this process, there are many options to cut-up or distribute whole birds.

“Non-intelligent systems will just cut the required cuts needed via manual bypassing or 100% without bypassing,” Martin said. “Intelligent line can weigh or grade each product that will then assign to each proper drop or cut.”

Machines are designed to debone white or dark meat and then everything is packaged per the customer’s specifications.

Since Cantrell and Gainco joined forces last year, the combined company has been offering more integrated solutions, such as Gainco baggers combined with Cantrell wing segmenters and Gainco-supplied metal detection or X-ray systems. Another example has been incorporating Gainco scales and yield management systems with Cantrell vacuum transport systems.

One example of the wide range of customized solutions that Cantrell-Gainco provides is product flows from the wing segmenter to the bagger and then the product is inspected by the foreign object station.

The net result for processors is equipment and systems that meet precise needs and deliver the highest yields and productivity possible.

Prepping for piecemeal

For customers looking to go piecemeal, it could be challenging.

McNeal noted piecemeal often leads to problems. For example, new and old equipment do not normally marry up as desired.

“Each equipment builder has unique equipment that may or may not work with a competitor’s equipment,” he said. “Each piecemeal has to be individually looked at for each opportunity. This takes extensive evaluation and collaboration between our sales and engineering teams and plants’ engineering teams,” he said.

Hahn said Baader has solutions for complete plants, functional areas, processing lines, and individual machines that can help with these challenges.

“Through collaboration with our customers, we evaluate and implement the best solutions for the customer’s benefit,” he said.

Evolving solutions

The first automated whole bird weighing systems were mechanical counterbalance-based devices that were slow and inaccurate. Martin said the use of weigh cells and solid-state electronics revolutionized the industry, but the operators needed a physics degree to run the systems.

“The speed of electronics and advanced software algorithms has seen the most significant advances,” he said. “The ability to provide user-friendly interfaces has taken much of the mystique of operating such systems out of the equation. There is much more data available to allow customers to see exactly what is going on in the operation in real time.”

Automation has exceeded expectations with regard to yields and throughputs when compared to manual deboning whole legs and/or thighs. That’s why Martin noted Foodmate uses the Optix Thigh Deboner, an intelligent machine that uses x-ray technology to precisely determine where the kneecap is on the bone by measuring the bone length, producing cartilage-free meat at the highest possible yields.

“The machine adjusts in real time for each leg on the line, and it can debone greater than 200 bone-in and skin-on thighs a minute with greater efficiency than deboning by hand,” he said. “Foodmate’s line of intelligent deboners expands to whole leg deboning as well, with the Ultimate, a predecessor of the Optix.”

Sizing is very important for improving yield and quality and processors are adding grading and sizing equipment before and after water portioning to maximize yield from each machine.

“Our grading solutions are smart solutions, using a user-generated recipe that controls which weight and grade of bird go to which location,” McNeal said. “Each of the lines has various control points located at strategic locations on the line. These may be a combination of proximity detectors, encoders, and through-beam sensors utilizing this equipment, the system knows the exact location of each bird or portion of a bird anywhere on the line.”

Machines have grown more intelligent through the years. Thanks to this evolution, today’s processors can manage production from the plant floor using real-time data rather than waiting for end-of-production reports, making processing lines more integrated than ever before.