Luckily for those who work in the broiler industry, with each day that goes by, chicken consolidates its position as the meat most in demand.

In response to this growing demand, manufacturers of processing machinery have been driven to develop more sophisticated equipment that can process chickens quicker, achieving high levels of quality and performance.

Processing speeds should no longer be calculated in chickens per minute but in chickens per second. An estimated 7,200 chickens per hour is the equivalent of two chickens per second!

To successfully operate in this new environment, however, is simply a question of using the right equipment, it is also dependent on employing the right staff. Two areas, in particular, need to be considered: attitude and managerial ability.

Far too often, those responsible for running processing plants that are gradually increasing their throughput are unaware that to be properly productive, they must completely reconsider the way they work.

Attitude  

Within this new business model, middle managers rather than the heads of companies need to be today’s leaders.

A leader can be defined as someone who is charismatic and a strong communicator of ideas. The result is that staff carries out its duties with enthusiasm, even when it does not particularly like the tasks at hand.

To further emphasize the point, it is worth remembering that charisma translates as the ability to bring about synergy with coworkers. This synergy is achieved through daily actions, such as simplicity of approach, humanity and support for the workforce. Such an approach can result in respect and admiration from the team, and pride in being part of a group.

Additionally, a belief in the sharing of ideas, supported by knowledge, experience and goals that have been successfully achieved, should result in a leader that has a high level of confidence, not only in what he or she does, but also in what he or she says. Achieving this results in high levels of trust and a willingness to follow instructions with confidence.

Management  

Managers should be highly conscious of the principle that speed can make the difference between success and failure in reaching goals. In the case of the poultry industry, the goal would be the processing of chickens with the highest degree of safety and quality possible, and achieving a yield that falls within the parameters that have been set.

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With this approach, all the variables of each operation should be monitored and evaluated in real time, ensuring that they meet what is required. When operations are not going to plan, decisions to make adjustments must be made as quickly as possible, so minimizing potential losses to quality and yield. A rapid response is supported by the following principles:

Nano Management: A focus on the small details, conscious of the fact that when small things go wrong the consequences, in terms of loss of productivity and quality, can be serious.

Mental Maps: All activities, from preslaughter to processing are interrelated. Consequently, those that have an impact on quality, safety and performance must be identified, and the effects, should they not be properly carried out, understood. For example, incorrectly applied feed withdrawal can lead to the following problems during evisceration:

  • Intestinal fragility, making their removal more problematic
  • A weak gallbladder that breaks easily when the liver is removed
  • A reduced liver yield – the liver is the energy bank of the chicken, and its glucose and fat content are absorbed if feed withdrawal is too long. When this occurs, yield is reduced
  • The cuticle that covers the two lobes of gizzard becomes more adherent. Consequently, its removal requires more time in the peeler rollers. This can reduce meat yield and create bottlenecks. Bottlenecks can result in overtime, upping operating costs and the cost per kilo of meat processed.

Real-time monitoring – hidden costs  

It is common for processing plants to employ a camera system to check whether processing operations are keeping pace with the number of birds slaughtered. However, there are various factors that can affect quality, safety and yield that are not monitored in real time, and where corrective action needs to be taken as quickly as possible should things start to go wrong.

For example, if a bird is not properly hung onto the shackles, then at the following stages there is a greater risk that it will fall from the hook:

  • Entry into the stunning bath can result in a sudden jerk as the electric current passes through the bird’s body, and this movement can dislodge the bird from the shackle
  • Should birds not be properly stunned at the moment of slaughter, then during slaughter they will writhe with pain and this can result in them falling from the shackle
  • Water turbulence during scalding can also result in birds becoming dislodged
  • During plucking, the normal movements of the process can result in birds falling
  • The various processes carried out during evisceration can also result in birds falling; at this stage, they may enter the waste channel that goes to the rendering plant

Without the proper infrastructure to monitor all these stages, significant losses can occur. Often, these problems are not detected until the cleaning team start to do their work, and find carcasses along the various stages of the processing line. Carcasses can be found:

  • At the bottom of the water bath
  • On the floor of the bleeding tunnel
  • At the bottom of the scalding tank
  • Mixed with feathers under the plucking machines
  • Mixed with waste due to be shipped to the rendering plant

Because the above are a daily occurrence in processing plants that work at high speed, it is essential that these employ additional monitoring systems, and a proactive management team. This team needs to behave much like the doctors in hospital accident and emergency rooms, where delays could lead to the death of the patient.

In the case of poultry processing, adopting the above approach can all the difference in competitiveness as it can raise the amount of Grade A chickens produced at a lower cost. The daily approach of the management team should be to run the plant in the same way that air traffic controllers do their jobs – paying attention at every second, as a lapse in attention could result in disappearance from the radar.