09/01/18 Updated 26/03/19

From kakugiri to nuggets

Uniform cube cutting around the world by means of the I-Cut 122

Uniform cube cutting around the world

I-Cut 122 Portion Cutter

The requirements for cutting kakugiri, Japanese poultry cubes, are seen as being the most stringent in the world. The Marel I-Cut 122 Portion Cutter meets all these requirements for yield, size, weight, shape, quality and capacity, producing a uniform end product day in and day out. The cutter can also be used to produce other cube products, be they nuggets in the USA or steaks in Europe.

I-Cut 122 Portion Cutter

Japan is one of the most demanding markets in the world, because of the high degree of (traditional) standardization as well as stringent health criteria for imported products. A very popular poultry product among Japanese consumers is kakugiri. Kakugiri are cubes of deboned skin-on or skinless leg meat.

These cubes are widely used in both soups and fast food. In the Japanese culture every piece of food should be the same one bite size and should look and taste exactly the same at all times.

"Cutting with excellent control of both weight and shape and at the same time hitting the highest yields."


Kakugiri must be cut to very accurate weights, with extremely tight tolerances for both shape and size. That’s why Japanese buyers search the world market for the perfect raw material, boneless leg meat. Their criteria are exceptionally strict, so as to simplify processing in Japan by doing away with the need to trim.

In Japan Marel has 60 lines producing this kind of meat. The country produces far more itself than the rest of the world does.

I-Cut 122 Portion Cutter


Kakugiri is also processed in countries such as Brazil, China, Philippines and Thailand, both for export to Japan and for growing local consumption. The raw material in these countries is, however, less perfect; in effect what Japanese buyers have not already bought. Because it has to deal with awkward weights the process has to be cleverer.

The equipment has to obtain the best yield from the natural fluctuations in size, weight and shape of the raw material available. This is where the I-Cut 122 outperforms its rivals, cutting with excellent control of both weight and shape and at the same time hitting the highest yields.

Marel equipment and the appropriate software make any cube cut easy, regardless of the input material. It is even possible to cut chicken steaks – large square cuts – from the thigh and cubes from the drum.


Because it complies with strict Japanese requirements, I-Cut 122 can cut cubes for other parts of the world without any trouble at all. The same techniques and benefits of I-Cut 122 in terms of performance, yield and product quality can be replicated in any other cube application. A cube is a cube, no matter what raw material is used whether leg or breast meat. Cubes must, however, be square and cut to give the highest possible yield. In the US, cubes are typically cut from breast meat and are called nuggets, in Europe they would be plain “cubes”.

Automatic cutting of cubes

Manual cube cutting needs a lot of labor. Some 40 people are needed to cut one ton per hour of deboned chicken legs into kakugiri. Automation with I-Cut 122 can reduce labor costs, saving up to 30 persons per shift.

For each automated cube cutting line, 8 to 10 people are still needed for product repositioning, inspecting for quality, checking weights and for packing.


Whatever cutting technique is used, cutting cubes in one go is not an option. The meat has to be cut twice, making it a composite activity for the machine’s software. Boneless legs or breast fillets fed to the machine have to be carefully scanned, measured and weighed to fit the kakugiri recipe. I-Cut 122 then precisely cuts each piece into multiple uniform narrow strips. These strips are turned 90 degrees and enter the portioning machine again on the other lane, where they are controlled by another program and cut into cubes.

Marel Portioning Product Manager Steen Petersen says, “On speed and specification our I-Cut 122 is second to none. When we say that that our Marel portioning line can do 2000 kilos (4409 lbs) per hour, we really mean this and are happy to invite anyone to test it at this throughput. I-Cut 122 works accurately even at the highest speeds.

At Marel, we deliver on promised performance and capacity. This is only natural for us.”