Six reasons to automate turkey processing

In the turkey industry, Marel is the unique single-stop solution to automating

Turkey FHF XT

Turkey processors around the world have plenty of reasons to automate their processes. The effects of Covid-19, scarcity of labor, changing consumer demands, sustainability and animal welfare requirements are just a few of them.

Turkey Rehang

1. The effects of Covid-19

Covid-19 has changed the way we live, restricting the size of family gatherings and forcing us to spend more time at home. Both aspects have affected what and where we eat.

Marel’s turkey processing automation solutions can help combat the immediate and longer-term consequences of the Covid pandemic.

In the USA, which accounts for roughly half of global turkey production, the pandemic has led to supply problems, which have resulted in substantial price increases. Food inflation has hit levels not seen for thirty years with turkey products being amongst the worst affected. Turkey processors have also found it increasingly difficult to find staff ready to work in processing plants, where many jobs are physically demanding and where risky shoulder-to-shoulder working is the norm.

Marel can offer systems, which largely automate the primary and secondary processes for both female turkeys and for the very heaviest males.

P5 Turkey CAS Stunning

2. Animal welfare requirements

Besides attention to production efficiency, yield and product quality, observing the highest animal welfare standards gains considerable importance. Consumers want to know that the turkeys, whose meat they eat, have been treated humanely.

In terms of turkey processing, the main welfare advance has been in stunning, where the use of controlled atmospheres is beginning to make inroads into traditional electrical stunning.

With a controlled atmosphere stunning system, live turkeys are no longer hung fully conscious to the killing line. This development benefits not just the birds but also the operatives hanging them. Marel offers a multi-stage CAS system, where birds are conveyed smoothly into atmospheres progressively richer in CO2. Marel also adds oxygen to the mix and humidifies it, ensuring that the anesthetization process happens gradually and smoothly.

Combining controlled atmosphere stunning with the Marel GP containerized live bird handling system offers optimal welfare-friendly conditions for transport from the growing farm to the processing plant and induction into the process itself. On arrival at the processing plant, live birds are unloaded automatically in a single smooth conveyor movement. If stunned using controlled atmosphere, birds move seamlessly into this system.

Turkey Evisceration

3. Consistency

In a mainly manually operated processing plant, consistency may be a challenge. Automated systems have no judgment bias and don’t get tired at the end of the day. In the defeathering process, for example, Marel’s scalding and plucking systems guarantee a consistently perfect carcass finish, whether females or males, whether turkeys are to be processed fresh or frozen. Processors can choose from a wide selection of counter-rotating and beam Attack Pluckers and Plucker/Finishers. An automatic quill puller can start the process, which a Washer/Finisher then completes.

Automation of the entire evisceration process will also contribute to higher consistency. Evisceration starts with vent removal and finishing with a thorough wash of both the outside of the carcass and its cavity. Cropping male turkeys by hand is particularly hard work. Marel’s newly introduced NIC-T cropping machine does this automatically, allowing operatives to be moved to lighter tasks, which longer term should result in lower staff turnover. Another recent development is a new Inside/Outside Washer, which takes more stringent US requirements for post evisceration carcass washing fully into account.

Apart from saving labor working closely next to one another, these automated solutions also make for a more consistent process resulting in top quality, top yield and top production efficiency.

Turkey Processing Line Chilling

4. Sustainability - water use

Marel’s new Inside/Outside Washer flushes water through the carcass, which can then be recirculated. Water is an increasingly scarce resource in our warming world, which we should use as sparingly as possible. At this point, it is worth noting that an automatic process uses less water than a manual one.

The use of water is a key issue in sustainable turkey processing. Conventional immersion water chilling systems are still the industry standard in many markets. Air chilling is, however, becoming ever more popular. Marel air chilling systems, the result of many years’ experience of chilling turkeys, produce top quality, tasty and succulent carcasses at a huge saving in water usage.

A typical air chilling system consists of shock chill and equalization tunnels. At the heart of both are overhead conveyor systems, which take turkeys through both processes. In the DownFlow Plus Shock chiller, all external and internal surfaces are chilled quickly with a forceful current of very cold air to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. DownFlow Plus cabinets mounted at variable points during the process apply a thin film of moisture to surfaces, safeguarding yield and allowing the precise management of color and presentation. In the Equalization Chiller, where turkeys spend a lot longer, further chilling and maturation take place using less cold air at lower velocities. The chiller’s microclimate has been designed to keep carcass temperature for as long as possible within the zone, where the enzymes responsible for maturation are at their most active.

JL-R anatomic chicken leg cutter

5. Saving labor

In most plants, the manual cutting and deboning processes involve operatives working shoulder to shoulder. As poor availability and increasing costs of work force are adverse effects for today’s turkey industry, processors will want to automate these operations. Also consistent cutting results (at the end of the working day) and an increasing customer demand for higher volumes are strong arguments to automate manual work. Marel offers its ACM-T turkey cut-up system and its FHF-XT front half deboning system. Both systems are modular, the modules specified depending on the cut-up and deboning jobs to be done. ACM-T and FHF-XB both save substantial amounts of labor, while ensuring that yield and quality are at least equal to a professional manual operation.

The ACM-T can handle the largest male turkeys. Its modules can cut necks, wings, front halves, anatomic legs, thighs and drumsticks. The anatomic leg module will harvest most oysters with the leg portion.

With an FHF-XT front half deboning system in place, turkey processors can make a wide variety of wing and deboned breast meat products. The system uses a standard overhead conveyor, which means that it can fit into any deboning hall layout, creating the best possible logistical flow.

Turkey Processing Cut Up Line

6. Unique single-stop solution

Automating the entire turkey process requires quite some diverse knowledge and equipment. Having just one company responsible for the automation of both primary and secondary processes has many obvious advantages. As a unique value proposition, Marel is able to be that single-stop solution to automating turkey processing.

A Marel Innova software package can provide the icing on the cake. Innova oversees both primary and secondary processes, giving real-time insight into each part process and presenting its information centrally in clear visual reports. Plant management can follow order fulfillment, yield and product quality on a minute-by-minute basis. Should there be any unforeseen and unwelcome variance, remedial action can be taken immediately, ensuring top overall production efficiency.


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