03 Mar 2021

Chicken processing: Managing with the senses


Eduardo Cervantes López

Diamond V

Content available in: Español (Spanish)

Chicken processing is a relatively fast activity: In less than 30 minutes, a shipment can be processed and sent to the cooling zone, regardless if using water or air systems. For this reason, plant managers must hone their senses of: Observing, listening, smelling and touching, in order to have a real-time and detailed view on how the processes are progressing.

Some Everyday Situations 

Although it’s true that the senses are always at play when evaluating our surroundings, it is recommended to prioritize the tasks to be carried out when one is in the plant supervising the process. Therefore, attention should be focused on one point at a time. This increases the possibility to take in as much information as possible, evaluate them and take immediate corrective actions if need be.

  • OBSERVE : Chickens frantically flapping once hung on the air conveyor. Consequences: Their stress increases. bleeding, bruising, fractures, etc. occur.
  • LISTEN: Noise level in the environment – fans, motors. etc. Consequences: In the waiting and hanging areas, they cause stress to the birds.
  • SMELL: To determine foul odours, due to improper cleaning and disinfection of equipment and facilities. Consequences: They affect the sanitary quality of the chickens that are being processed.
  • TOUCH: Products in process to get a rough idea of surface temperature and texture.
chicken slaughterhouse

This requirement becomes critical whether slaughtering at speeds of 1, 2 or 3 chickens/second. If the pertinent actions are not taken as soon as possible, the losses in quality and yield will lead to an increase in the cost per kilo of processed meat. This consequently affects the product’s competitiveness in the market.

Management Actions

To get the most out of all the information processed by our senses, it is necessary to implement the following introspective procedure:

  • What messages that can be derived from what was sensed?
  • Did they occur at the same time or throughout the processing?
  • Why are they happening?
  • What am I supposed to do now?
  • Take immediate action or analyze a little more, to find a comprehensive solution.
processing-chickensslaughterhouse management

By way of illustration, we have highlighted some very important aspects that must be monitored in each of the following equipment.

  • Air conveyor belt: All hooks must be filled with chickens. Their legs must be properly supported at the bottom. Reason: To prevent them from falling during the different stages.
  • Stunner: Pre-Shocking should be avoided so that chickens don’t flap intensely and pass out. Objective: To reduce risks that can damage the wings and cause bruises and hemorrhages in the breast, ideally at 100% effectiveness.
  • Scalding machine: Chickens must be brought in completely dead. If this condition is not met, they will die from drowning. their coloration will be reddish after plucking. The birds should move completely submerged. Water turbulence should be uniform within the tank.
  • Pluckers: Remove more than 95% of the feathers, with a gentle adjustment of the plucker fingers on the chickens. Problems of skin tearing and wing dislocations are reduced.
Comparative Database Management

If statistical data derived from the yield of chickens processed are not properly analyzed, its collection translates into a regrettable waste of time. This will also have a demotivate those who worked rigorously in obtaining them. For this reason, the operational and administrative activities that must be carried out as described:

COLLECTION: Obtain the required data and make the calculations to establish the corresponding results that serve as a reference point.

ANALYSIS : Compare the data with the management parameters, to determine if they are within standard. If, for some reason, these values are unknown, the results of the previous batches of the same farm can be used as a reference points to conclude if the new batch has: improved, worsened or similar.

IMPLEMENTATIONS: Prepare the improvements to be made. Define execution times, budgets and results to be achieved.

Management Parameters

They are a set of data established to evaluate the operations of a process. These values are benchmarks, which can be likened to world records. They are surpassed at any time, as a result of the continuous will of the operators to improve their performance. As a guide, the following are listed below:

  • Asphyxiated (dead) chickens dremoved from cages and / or containers:
    • Hot climate: 0.05% – 0.1%
    • Cold climate: Less than 0.05%
  • Seizures (Seconds): 0.1% of the total chickens processed.
  • Waste (Parts fallen to the floor during cutting and / or deboning): Less than 0.005% of the total kilos processed.
  • Dry yield of the carcass without neck and legs, leaving the abdominal fat: 74%.
  • Count of live chickens hanging from the overhead conveyor. Taken out of the cages at a rate of: 1800 chickens / hour / worker.
  • Badly bled chickens (red): 0.03% of the total of processed chickens.




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