Desirable bird weights will vary from market to market. In some markets the heavier the bird the better, as each bird takes up a shackle and processing heavier birds does not necessarily involve more people. In other markets, particularly those where cut portions in fixed weight/fixed price packs predominate, growers aim to achieve a weight profile suitable for these packs. In each case, processors must be able to check that birds arriving at the processing plant are of the weight expected. If not, plant management will have to take prompt remedial action. The sooner therefore they have this information, the better. Once in the process, optimum processor profitability depends on the allocation of each product to the downstream process where it can earn the most money.
A different process
The ability to weigh products at various stages in the process is important for another reason too. Unlike other manufacturing processes, which assemble products from individual parts, processing chicken is all about disassembly. Carcasses bleed out, their feathers are removed, their feet cut off and all innards taken out. In many plants, cut and deboned products now account for the majority of production. The disassembly process can result in too much weight being lost and quality compromised. The processor needs to know as soon as possible if something is wrong and exactly where the problem is happening.
Let us now look by department at what weight and quality information we ideally need and why.
Weighing live birds
Although they give the total weight of birds delivered by flock, conventional crate weighing systems do not weigh birds individually and cannot therefore show a flock’s weight distribution curve. If this information were also available, it would help plant management manage better, as they would spot any unwelcome variances at the beginning of the process, giving them extra time to come up with solutions.
The ability to weigh live birds accurately is important for other reasons too, such as grower evaluation and a baseline reference for downstream yield checks.
First quality check
The first opportunity to check the health status of a flock is in the lairage/hang-on area, where vets can remove DOAs and damaged birds. A second check after plucking allows the removal of obviously sick, undersize or poorly bled carcasses unsuitable for proceeding to the next stage in the process. To ensure the correct allocation of the cost of such damage, the ability to determine whether damage to a product happened on the farm or in the processing plant would also be very welcome.