Courtesy of Avicultura Industrial magazine, issue #1297
The chicken that reaches the Brazilian table is effectively a technological-based product. Even before a broiler hatches, it already carries in itself decades of research and genetic gains. The entire productive cycle is accompanied by numerous advances in nutrition, health, management and other pillars of the activity development. This productive process culminates in the processing plants, which have invested heavily in the automation of all their processes in the last ten years, adding cutting-edge innovations to each stage of processing.
The investments in technology of the processing plants enabled the development of new products, aligned to the needs of modern consumers, meeting the specific demands of some of the more than 160 countries to which the Brazilian chicken reaches, to the taste and needs of the domestic consumer. Consumption habits have changed over time. It is up to the industry to respond to this, offering products better suited to new consumption profiles, with new cuts or portions, bone-free options, and other alternatives that facilitate the daily lives of people or food service chains.
During the ‘investment boom’ in recent years, especially in the period 2010-2016, the poultry processing companies have automated much of their processes, while reducing costs and losses and increasing efficiency from end to end. As a result, preparation of Brazilian cuisine and dishes has become increasingly easy, practical, and diverse.
However, there is still room for further progress. Ruud Berkers, regional director of Marel Poultry in Latin America, says that the Brazilian market mostly offers basic poultry cuts. This opens huge opportunities for the introduction of products with greater added value, such as fixed-weight portions, cubes, marinated and ready-to-cook products. “Given the high volume produced in the country, there are endless possibilities for further processed food production. There is a very strong trend towards the diversification of end products, as in the United States, where 'home-style' breading is very successful,” says Ruud Berkers.
From automation to optimization
According to Ruud Berkers, Brazil has been focusing mainly on the automation of general processes in the last decade. With this automation scenario practically consolidated, the next logical step is to move from automation to optimization. "Every empty shackle in a line is a profit loss - every product that’s not A-quality costs money. An optimization process is, however, only possible if reliable information is provided between departments. This eliminates discussions about the reasons for the underperformance of a line. In decision-making, vague assumptions and opinions must make way for concrete facts and figures.”
Pen and paper
Ruud Berkers says that a plant manager should be able to identify the greatest opportunities for improvements and the reasons why the lines are not working optimally. The current reality, however, is that managers can’t gather this data easily. Most of the information is still written down using pen and paper at the end of the day, which makes analysis difficult. "For this reason, real-time information is very important and can influence decision-making", says Berkers, emphasizing also that Marel’s current focus is to present the advantages and benefits of process optimization and intelligent data collection.
In the case of chicken cuts, one of the great challenges of the industry is to avoid overweight in packaging. In this aspect, automation of processes is fundamental. "Automating the processes of grading, portioning and batching means that human bias is excluded, and accuracy is optimized; as a result, you’ll have greater yield with less overweight," says Ruud Berkers.