USPOULTRY recently hosted poultry industry professionals in Nashville, Tennessee, for the 2021 Poultry Processor workshop. Consumer satisfaction and regulatory compliance are always concerns, and elevated input costs as well as labor shortages have pushed these issues to the forefront. A wealth of information and practical instruction was provided by the speakers and covered topics on increased line speeds as they correspond to processing efficiencies and food safety, breast myopathies, Campylobacter interventions, gas and electrical stunning, plant automation and more.

Corbett Kloster, director of food safety and quality assurance for Fieldale Farms Corporation, discussed the effects of evisceration monitoring effects on plant performance. He used practical examples of various issues seen in first processing to provide a primer on statistical process control as well as developing and testing a hypothesis to improve processes. Corbett also discussed the importance of selecting the “right” data to analyze to investigate a desired process. Particularly applicable in practice in any manufacturing environment was the instruction on how to implement a statistical process control (SPC) program.

Suzanne Finstad, vice president of food safety and quality assurance for Tyson Foods, shared insights into foreign material prevention. She spoke about the importance of having robust processes in place to ensure that equipment is in good condition for processing. A key takeaway from her presentation is that everyone in the plant, including line employees, maintenance mechanics, food safety/quality assurance and managers are all equally responsible for ensuring the safety of the food products produced in a facility. Other recommendations included ensuring that documentation was complete and correct and that training was done in a meaningful way so that it would be retained by the attendees.

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Rachel Edelstein, assistant administrator with USDA FSIS, provided a detailed look into several areas of USDA policy that will be seen by plants in the near future or are applicable now. Some of the topics discussed included an accredited laboratory program, a uniform appeals window of 30 days, labeling update, cellular agriculture, Polish exports, revisions to Appendices A and B, Salmonella and Campylobacter programs, waivers to sampling frequency and a temporary pause in FSIS Salmonella sampling under certain conditions if requested by the establishment. The Salmonella sampling “pause” is applicable to establishments who are conducting trials on new antimicrobial interventions and could be requested for up to a single four-week period per year.

Dr. Dianna Bourassa, assistant professor and extension specialist at Auburn University, covered a number of common meat quality issues in plants. She pointed out it was important to identify the cause of the meat quality issues and not make assumptions when there could be multiple contributing factors. The meat quality issues were discussed in relation to practical applications in the growout or processing operations and how they affected both product quality as well as yield.