A serious problem in the chicken industry may have a relatively simple solution.

Chicken processors can and should use woody breast meat to make fresh and cooked sausages. New research shows – even using just severely woody breast meat – grinding and processing woody meat renders fresh and cooked sausages and hotdogs that are not discernably different than those made in the normal manner.

Instead of losing value on woody breast meat, new value can be created in products selling for between $3 to $4 dollars a pound.

At the recent U.S. Poultry and Egg Industry’s Poultry Processor Workshop in Nashville, Tennessee, Dr. Harshavardhan Thippareddi, John Bekkers professor in poultry science at the University of Georgia Department of Poultry Science, spoke about the best uses for meat exhibiting myopathies. He spoke on November 16, 2021.

Woody breast

These conditions like woody breast, white striping, spaghetti meat and green tender syndrome are a continuing problem in the chicken industry. They remove significant value due to the associated meat quality issues. The cause of these conditions is unknown but there is some agreement modern broiler genetics favoring feed conversion contribute to the syndromes.

Woody breast meat is higher in moisture, fat and collagen and lower in muscle protein content than normal meat. Functionally, it uptakes and retains less marinade and develops color issues in final products. In the mouth, the texture is not the same as normal meat.

Sausage making

Thippareddi said new research shows comminuted products like sausages, hotdogs and patties are the best use for woody breast meat. By grinding, chopping and mixing, woody breast meat with other ingredients – salt and phosphates – to create a new product that does not suffer from textural and functional issues.

Sausages and hot dogs in particular offer value because processors can used trimmed chicken fat from deboning that would otherwise go into the rendering truck for six cents a pound. This renders a 100% chicken product which could be useful if a processor is trying to capitalize on an antibiotic-free or no-antibiotics-ever growing program. Often, he said, chicken is just another ingredient in hot dogs and sausages. When fat is added to chicken sausages it sometimes comes from pork or beef.

While 100% chicken hotdogs aren’t a particularly high demand product, they do appeal to consumers overseas that do not eat pork or beef due to religious dietary standards. Moreover, processed woody breast meat could be used in a canned product used in malnourished areas of the developing world.