Costco teams up with Marel

Latest technologies to be installed, including the ATLAS system


Over the last three years, the Marel team has been working hard, together with representatives from Costco Wholesale and their newly formed poultry processing company, Lincoln Premium Poultry, on a state-of-the-art greenfield plant in Fremont Nebraska. This order marks the largest single order to date for Marel as a whole.

Marel has been chosen to equip Lincoln Premium Poultry with the latest technology it has to offer. Three complete slaughter lines will be supplied for the new plant, from live bird reception up to chilling. Each line will make use of Marel’s latest live bird reception system, ATLAS. From there, the plant will run complete CAS stunning, kill and evisceration systems, all incorporating the latest technology, up to chilling.


The installation of the ATLAS system marks an important milestone. Marel Poultry developed this system particularly, paying particularly close attention to animal welfare and sustainability. Lifting efficiency standards was an important priority too. Costco appreciated this fact and it goes to show that ATLAS is a universal system for use in all parts of the world.

Marel has found the best way of giving birds as much space as possible, while continuing to transport them efficiently. Thanks to the ingenious design of the SmartStack transportation module, featuring a unique bottom tray-pallet, loading capacity can increase up to 38%, which means fewer truck movements and lower CO2 emission. At the same time, more headroom is available per bird, animal stress is minimized and hygiene is up.

From chilling to bone detection

For chilling, Marel will install three shock/maturation air chill systems, complete with automatic transfer into the system from evisceration and out of the system to the distribution line.

Post chilling, Marel will supply two distribution lines complete with SmartWeigher and IRIS vision grading so that Costco can make well-founded decisions about downstream product allocation. After whole bird selection, all remaining products will be cut up on four Marel cut-up lines. Deboning will be done using five of the newest AMF-i cap deboners and two in-line Thigh Fillet Systems. Deboned parts will pass through one of five Marel SensorX machines for bone detection.

Costco Marel People


Operating at the very highest level of automation, a combination of Marel robots and Multihead Weighers will present cut portions automatically for thermoform packing. Metal detectors will check and full specification Marel weigh price labeling lines process and box each pack in cartons. Deli and rotisserie products will also be handled in the same way on Marel equipment.

Innova software

Marel Innova software, fully integrated throughout the plant, will run processing, helping management achieve full traceability and lift efficiency levels.

Innova, an invaluable tool in plant-wide quality control, will monitor all incoming weights, defects and processing yields, keeping an eye on equipment at the same time. By overseeing cut-up and packaging, Innova will ensure that orders are met on a realtime basis. Innova will also be integrated into third party grower software and ERP as well as robotic palletizing systems being used in the plant.

Two million chickens

Costco has purchased 414 acres in Fremont. The site will contain a chicken hatchery, feed mill and processing plant. The entire supply chain will be concentrated in a 100 mile radius.

The goal is to produce two million chickens a week (25,200 bph). The new Lincoln Premium Poultry facility will process birds of 2.7 kg (6.0 lbs) average live weight. The focus will be on producing the highest quality A-grade products for the Costco rotisserie program, while also supplying bagged deli whole birds and thermoformed saddle packed parts for wholesale grocery chains. The processing plant will handle about a third of the raw and rotisserie chicken sold at Costco stores nationwide. Marel will deliver the systems by the end of 2018.

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