Duck business thrives in Portugal

Avibom completes a comprehensive plant upgrade to produce premium ducks

Avibom Collage Products

In many ways, Portugal is the perfect country to run a duck business. With its latitude, mild Mediterranean climate and comfortable humidity levels it has almost ideal conditions for growing poultry. Portugal is also a gastronomic country, famous for its wine and food. Avibom is well aware of these favorable conditions and responded by updating its duck plant with the latest processing technologies to handle 3,500 ducks per hour [58 dpm].

Portugal is more than just a perfect destination for tourists. It is a friendly, hardworking country, which has faced quite some challenges in recent decades. From 2000 to 2012, the Portuguese agrifood business went through several crises, having to deal with nitrofuran, avian influenza and the global bank crisis. Fortunately, businesses started getting back to normal in 2012. The economy including the poultry industry slowly recovered. Even though frustrated again by the Covid-19 pandemic, Portugal has experienced considerable business growth in the last two years.

Avibom belongs to the Grupo Valouro and is a company with traditionally very good relationship with Marel. Over the years, Avibom and Marel have been partners in multiple large projects. Now both partners have implemented together a unique showcase plant for duck technology. Avibom’s completely renovated plant gathers Marel’s latest primary duck processing technologies under one roof. It is situated near the village of Ramalhal, 60 km [37 miles] north of Lisbon.


Critical Portuguese consumers

Portuguese consumers are very focused on quality. With duck products, quality and particularly visual skin quality is paramount worldwide, even more so in Portugal. The duck products Avibom brings to the market must therefore be premium. Avibom serves retail and foodservice customers both at home and abroad. Although food service was particularly badly affected by the Covid-19 crisis, things have now stabilized and both sectors will assume their important positions again.

Informed decisions

Mr. Alfredo Sarreira, Avibom’s General Manager, who manages a number of Grupo Valouro’s plants, is a real poultry professional. Together with Grupo Valouro CEO José António dos Santos and Industrial Director Helena Isidoro, accompanied by Marel’s duck specialist Arjan Schrauwen and Regional Sales Director Marco Solleveld, he made reference visits to a German duck processing plant, so that he could make a well-informed decision.
Marel’s solutions really met his needs. “We wanted our new processing plant to be capable of delivering top quality, producing only A-grade duck products that exceed the requirements of our customers. We can now already say that Portuguese consumers have really taken to our end products,” says Alfredo Sarreira. “With Marel’s help we have managed to achieve our goals.”

Avibom Plant

Careful handling

Avibom’s duck market is almost entirely about whole birds. Avibom’s processing systems must handle ducks with the utmost care, as a single red spot or bruise could result in a downgraded whole product. Therefore, all processes in Avibom’s processing plant aim at perfect product presentation and quality. This starts with electrical stunning and a precise manual neck incision to preserve good presentation of the head, as whole duck products are sold head-on.

Diamond pattern

The defeathering department also aims at safeguarding presentation 100%. Scald temperature must be accurately controlled to loosen feathers without damaging the skin. Because waterfowl tends to float, the special scalding system features additional agitation to immerse ducks. The plucking process is extremely critical when it comes to skin presentation. To ensure that heads look good and are feather-free, a dedicated head/neck plucker has been installed in front of two regular pluckers. Maintaining the diamond pattern in the breast skin is also crucial for visual quality. Plucking fingers must do their work thoroughly but accurately leaving the skin intact.

We wanted our new processing plant to be capable of delivering top quality, producing only A-grade duck products that exceed the requirements of our customers.

Alfredo Sarreira
General Manager Avibom

Skin waxing

Waxing, a specific requirement for waterfowl, is another processing step, which contributes to perfect skin quality. Products are conveyed through a wax bath and then dipped in a cold water tank to solidify the wax. The solid wax containing down and pin feathers is then removed automatically in a wax peeler. Waxing finishes off the defeathering process, leaving a shiny skin presentation. Avibom’s waxing process is done using Marel’s latest equipment and technology for ensuring A-grade products.

From evisceration to distribution

Avibom has automated the evisceration process with special duck systems such as a vent opener, eviscerator, final inspection machine, neck skin inspection machine, neck cracker, neck skin trimmer and inside/outside washer. Giblet harvesting is done mainly manually.
Avibom chills ducks in an air chill tunnel, which incorporates new drive technology using ATC Active Tension Control. After chilling, whole ducks are transferred automatically to the new selection line, where they are weighed and visually graded in a QS-3 station for distribution to different drop stations. Innova PDS software largely looks after how product is allocated.

Avibom People

About Avibom

Grupo Valouro SGPS, SA is one of the largest economic groups in the European agrifood sector. The production of animal feed and poultry are the main business of this company, whose capital is mainly held by the Dos Santos family. Over the last 50 years the twin brothers António José and José António dos Santos have been the strategists of the group. They have been responsible for the exponential growth and dynamism of the poultry sector in Portugal. The Valouro Group employs more than 2,200 workers. About 36 companies in the agriculture, feed industry, poultry breeding, poultry production, poultry processing and transformation, food distribution and trade, transport, energy production, insurance and tourism sectors are also part of the Valouro world. The Valouro Group also supports numerous social solidarity organizations and sports groups. Avibom is the main commercial brand of the Valouro Group, used for poultry products, and it is also the company that supervises several processing plants.

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