Marel gives you wings

Chicken wings - a highly valued popular snack around the world

Buffalo Wings

China and the USA, two of the world’s most populous countries, really like their chicken wing products. Demand is strong and growing in both markets. In the USA, the “Buffalo” wing, a fried inner or center wing joint dipped in a hot sauce, was first served at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, in 1964. Since that time, chicken wings have become an ever more popular snack, eaten both at home and in fast-food restaurants. After breast meat, wings are the second most favorite portion for US consumers. Chicken wings are also a feature of major sporting events. Over 1.4 billion wings were eaten during this year’s Superbowl, enough to go round the world three times. In China it is the center joint, carefully cut and presented with a flap of skin from the inner joint, which is the most popular. It features on the menus of some of the best-known fast-food chains. Center joints can command up to five times the price per kilogram of breast fillet.

Q Wing Drop Station2

Automation saves labor

Wings are the smallest chicken portion. When done manually, wing cutting is very labor-intensive. Today, lack of staffing in their plants is, however, the biggest threat for poultry processors, aggravated by tight Covid-19 requirements. Around the globe, many of them have difficulties finding staff. Processors are therefore looking for automated solutions: equipment that will cut wings efficiently and consistently accurately. Automatic cutting in Marel ACM-NT wing cutting modules is the perfect labor-saving answer.

Maximized yield 

Poultry processors are also looking for equipment, which maximizes yield. Some companies supplying QSR fast food chains need to cut wing portions with a medallion of breast meat attached. Others want to leave all breast meat on the breast with the added option of being able to harvest some back meat with the wing portion. Whatever type of cut is needed, retail, bulk or fast food, Marel can offer all options.

Special QSR needs

Some QSR chains insist that any cutting line for their products be exclusive to them. The line can handle no cuts for other customers.
Marel offers an approved ACM-NT line to do a special nine-piece cut for a major international QSR chain. What is important for the chain is that all pieces take the same amount of time to fry, resulting in unique wing, breast, thigh and drumstick cuts. To ensure this is achieved, carcasses for cutting into the nine pieces are taken from a very narrow weight band.   


Stretching, guiding and anatomical cutting

Accurate wing processing demands that wings are presented precisely to automatic cutting equipment. This means stretching them. An automatic wing stretcher always precedes a Marel wing cutting operation.

Accurate cutting is essential for a successful automatic wing operation. This requires the correct guiding for correct presentation to the cutting blades and the correct cutting technique. These will be different for different situations. At Marel, separation of the inner wing joint from the carcass is anatomical except where this joint must be cut with a medallion of breast meat. Separation of inner and middle joints is also anatomical.

Growing demand

Given growing demand worldwide, automatic equipment must be capable of cutting ever more wings, ever more accurately into an expanding range of wing products. There is also scope for improving product flows and for saving labor for inspection and packaging.

Three examples of innovative ACM-NT Marel wing processing solutions are the Wingstick module, the HY second joint wing cutter and Q-Wing.


The ACM-NT Wingstick module cuts a wing snack product that is very popular in markets such as France, Poland and Turkey. Volume processors in all these markets are now using the module. A Wingstick is an inner wing joint where the bone is bared to form a handle, making it easier to pick up and eat. Wingstick does all these operations automatically.

chicken wingsticks wing

Chinese middle joints

The HY second joint cutter reproduces a middle joint product popular in China and South East Asia. Its distinctive feature is a flap of skin taken from the inner wing joint. As Chinese consumers pay particular attention to meticulous presentation, Marel development engineers focused on mimicking the hand movements needed to create the product. The result is a high-volume automatic operation, giving levels of yield and quality at least equal to that obtained manually.


Marel Q-Wing is an innovative combination of its IRIS vision system and ACM-NT wing processing modules. An IRIS vision system scans the wings or their individual joints of the incoming products. Each wing cutting module is doubled, so that wings or wing joints passed by IRIS as being “A” grade are cut by one module, while downgrades are cut by the other. Two separate product streams result, a logistical advantage as “A” grade wing components will usually be packed differently to downgrades. Manual inspection becomes redundant with at most one operative providing a final quality check.

Q-Wing will handle whole wings, inner or middle joints at capacities of up to 14,400 wings per hour.

Pandemic proof

At the beginning of the pandemic there were fears that the market for chicken wing products, dependent as it then was on the fast-food sector, would take a big hit. This fear has proved unfounded, as consumers have switched to enjoying their favorite chicken wings at home in front of the TV.

Chicken wings have shown themselves to be pandemic proof and will surely go from strength to strength.

Q Wing Packing

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