10 tips for proper broiler evisceration

Following these 10 simple steps can help to ensure that broiler carcasses are properly eviscerated, resulting in a quality final product.

Cross contamination is reduced when the viscera are removed from the carcass and placed on a separate shackle. (Courtesy Marel)
Cross contamination is reduced when the viscera are removed from the carcass and placed on a separate shackle. (Courtesy Marel)

Evisceration can be a strength or weakness within the poultry processing plant. Routinely following 10 essential steps can help to ensure that chicken evisceration is carried out well, ultimately preventing problems.

Poor removal of the viscera contributes to fecal and bacterial contamination of carcasses. Visible contamination results in expensive and time-consuming reprocessing of carcass and edible offal condemnation, while undetected contamination can lead to even more expensive product recalls.    

While some researchers find significant contamination occurs at evisceration, others find minimal bacterial levels and these differences have been attributed to process management. With that in mind, consider the following tips for good evisceration: 


  1. Remove feed from birds 8 to 12 hours prior to slaughter

Although not directly a part of evisceration, proper fasting of birds prior to slaughter is critical for good evisceration. A withdrawal period of 8 to 12 hours is recommended. 

If withdrawal time is shorter than 8 hours the gastrointestinal tract remains full of fecal material and is more easily torn during evisceration. Withdrawal times greater than 14 hours also increase the chance of breakage since the intestinal lining is depleted of mucus and reduced in mass. Feed withdrawal times of 12 hours or greater may increase Campylobacter and Salmonella levels in the intestinal tract. To prevent this increase, consider acidifying bird drinking water during the withdrawal period. 


  1. Regularly clean and maintain equipment

Equipment should be thoroughly cleaned and inspected between shifts. 

For plants running continuously, regular cleaning and maintenance should be incorporated into the schedule.


  1. Adjust equipment and processes to avoid intestinal rupture

Adjust all equipment to run within the specifications set by the manufacturer and never run equipment at line speeds above those recommended. Adjust equipment for the size of birds entering the plant and readjust during the day if bird size varies between flocks.

In particular:

  • If heads are removed at this stage adjust head puller to cut through the esophagus leaving crop intact;
  • Adjust vent cutting and bird opening processes to avoid damage to the intestines;  
  • Check viscera extraction machine for proper alignment;
  • Check all washing equipment for proper water temperature, water pressure, nozzle condition, nozzle positioning and flow rate;
  • For manual evisceration, keep cutting edges sharp and switch to clean equipment multiple times during each shift. Train workers on proper techniques to avoid intestinal breakage.    


  1. Rinse equipment with water or approved chemicals

In addition to cleaning and maintenance, evisceration equipment should be washed with water between each bird. 

If possible, use high water pressure, particularly on areas of equipment touched by carcasses. When regulations permit use an approved chemical such as chlorine or acidified sodium chlorite (ASC) in the rinses. For manual evisceration rinse equipment and evisceration surfaces between each bird.


  1. Separate viscera from carcass

Viscera must remain paired to the carcass for inspection.  Leaving the viscera hanging from the carcass provides opportunity for fecal content to leak from the rectum into the carcass. Instead, use separate shackles or a tray that remains side by side with the bird. In addition to reducing contamination, this practice simplifies inspection and the separation of edible offal.


  1. Routinely observe process for areas of possible cross contamination

As evisceration occurs are there:

  • Carcasses touching each other? 
  • Carcasses touching the sides of equipment?
  • Carcasses stacked on each other or on dirty surfaces?

Adjust equipment or change the process to minimize these events.


  1. Rinse carcasses often with water or approved chemicals

Continuous and thorough washing of carcasses throughout evisceration removes contaminant, minimizes bacterial attachment and reduces the risk of cross contamination. 

After evisceration an inside-outside body wash (IOBW) uses water pressure to remove visible contaminants. A brushing apparatus should also be considered. For all washing steps, consider the use of chlorine or other chemicals if permitted. 


  1. When possible, use on-line procedures for carcass reprocessing

 When fecal contents are not removed via normal methods in the processing line, carcass reprocessing must occur. Off-line reprocessing involves removing carcasses from the production line, manually trimming contaminated portions and rinsing the carcasses. Alternatively, on-line processing uses hot pressurized water to clean the carcasses on the processing line. Where permitted by national authorities, use on-line instead of off-line processing. With properly maintained equipment, on-line reprocessing has been shown to be more effective. 


  1. Add a carcass wash prior to chilling 

Risk assessments conducted by the UK Food Standards Agency and the U.S. Food Safety Inspection Service suggest implementing a carcass treatment at the end of evisceration immediately prior to carcass chilling. Options include carcass treatment with steam, using a hot water dip or high pressure spraying with chemicals, where permitted.  


  1. Maintain worker hygiene standards

All other interventions will fail if workers do not observe hygiene standards. Train workers to wash their hands properly and often and to use gloves and other personal protection equipment properly. External clothing should not come in contact with carcasses.

Proper hygiene standards will protect workers as well as product.


Continuous rinsing of equipment and carcasses removes visible contamination and minimizes bacterial attachment. (Courtesy Baader)





How to maintain broiler carcass quality during evisceration


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