Slow-growing chicken demand optimum carcass balance

2 Sisters Storteboom sees an increasing demand for thigh meat

Thigh Fillet System Deskinner 2500

Supermarkets in the Netherlands are gradually switching to slow-growing, also known as concept chicken, products. At processor 2Sisters Storteboom, concept chickens now represent 28% of all broilers. Sjaak Martens, Operational Director Processing at 2Sisters Storteboom in Nijkerk, emphasizes the increasing importance of carcass balance when processing slowgrowing chickens. He says that some 70 tons of concept thighs are processed in the new leg deboning hall.

Why is carcass balance so important?

“When retailers wanted a higher-welfare chicken, we agreed to cooperate on condition that we could achieve an acceptable carcass balance. For such high value chicken, you can’t afford to process just breast and wings. Both economically and morally, we cannot justify just putting the rest of the chicken in a box and exporting it at a reduced price. That is an outdated approach, also in view of current and upcoming climate and welfare regulations.”

2Sistersstorteboom2

From left to right: Maas van den Brink (Branch Manager 2Sisters Storteboom), Sjaak Martens (Operational Director Processing 2Sisters Storteboom), Sander de Bruin (Regional Sales Director Marel Poultry)

How did you promote thigh meat?

“Working with the supermarkets, we started to make thigh meat popular. Chefs also began to use thighs more frequently in restaurants. This turns out very well, because there are many dishes such as chicken sate where thigh meat actually fits the bill better than breast meat. Three years ago nobody was interested in thigh meat, but now, apart from supermarkets, industrial customers such as fast-food restaurants and caterers are coming to us because they also want to work with thigh meat.”

How do you process chicken legs?

“It is only three years since we were manually deboning some 4, 5 tons a week on a simple trimming table. This business continued to grow to around 70 tons and we had a huge amount of people at work. Then I saw the Marel Thigh Fillet System at the Poultry ShowHow in 2017. That was an ideal option for us, because we didn’t want to have to debone whole legs. That’s a totally different market, which we don’t want to be in. Retailers aren’t interested in whole legs, only in thigh meat. The same goes for our industrial customers, who want to supply their outlets throughout Europe with thigh meat.”

What is your input product?

“We get saddles [back halves] from our processing plant. Five people shackle them manually at a speed of 7,200 per hour [120 pm]. We have chosen saddles instead of separated legs because of the high efficiency of the JLR anatomical leg cutter. The JLR succeeds in really keeping the oyster on the leg. That extra bit of yield when compared to a "normal" leg has a significant impact, when we’re talking about such large volumes".

“For such high value chickens, you can’t afford to process just breast and wings.”

Sjaak Martens

Sjaak Martens
Operational Director Processing 2Sisters Storteboom

In what way is a concept chicken different?

“Right from the start, we adjusted the Thigh Fillet System to the anatomy of a concept chicken. It is a different breed with somewhat longer, thinner legs. Quite simply, the Marel thigh deboning system has a superior way of removing the thigh bone and the kneecap. We almost never find any residual bone in the thigh meat, which is important for the trimmers. Otherwise they have to work on the bone first and will lose trimming time.”

What are your end products?

“With Marel StreamLine we trim thigh meat to the specifications of each customer. We then buffer thigh meat in crates and feed the entire volume in one go to the Multihead Weigher, which weighs and packs it onto trays. This is about thigh cubes and thigh fillets, but our MHW works all day long with all kinds of product flows from the factory including drumsticks and breast fillet cubes. In this hall, we use Innova software for all applications from weighing to traceability. We want to know and register exactly what we put in and what comes out.”

What happens with drumsticks?

“We sort drumsticks by weight and pack them for regular bulk export. The heaviest drumsticks are deboned in the Marel Drumstick Deboning System. The result is boneless drum meat but not for putting on the supermarket shelf in this form. It is ground to produce minced rolls, bacon wrapped sausages or minced chicken. Even for such products, retailers are asking for leg meat, not drum meat, so the main component will be thigh meat. Compared to 70 tons of thigh meat we produce 10 tons of drum meat per week. That share will grow but the market isn’t ready for it yet.”

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