Demand for poultry meat continues to rise. According to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) figures, global production of broiler meat (birds raised specifically for meat production) is expected to hit a record 90.4 million tons¹ in 2017 – a rise of 1 percent on 2016.
As global appetites for turkey, geese and ducks grow, so do the food safety expectations of regulators, retailers and consumers. Poultry processors must meet rigorous production schedules, as well as ensure the safety of products entering the retail supply chain.
Bone Detection is the Main Challenge for Poultry Processors
The main challenge for poultry processors is the detection of bones – specifically the rib, fan and wish bones, as the majority of poultry processed is breast meat or filet. These three bone types have different detection levels. The wish bones are the easiest to detect as they are denser, then the rib bones followed by the fan bones which are very thin, almost like cartilage in young birds.
A chicken breast reaching a consumer with bone present could have grave repercussions. Aside from the risk of choking, chicken bones have a tendency to splinter and can cause injury if swallowed or bitten into. For processors, there’s the risk of a product recall, resulting in financial and brand image damage.
These challenges are compounded by the fact that the majority of birds are slaughtered at a young age, typically between four and six weeks, before their bones have had a chance to calcify. Calcification hardens bones, making them easier to detect. However, it is often not viable from a cost or demand perspective for processors to increase the lifecycle of birds to allow for greater calcification.
X-ray Inspection of Poultry is the Answer!
Many processors inspect poultry manually, but this shouldn’t be encouraged as a primary method of contaminant detection due to the margin for human error. X-ray inspection of poultry offers much more reliable and consistent results than manual inspection and can play a pivotal role in keeping poultry safe and production lines efficient. By inspecting 100% of product, x-ray systems for poultry inspection offer processors three key benefits:
1. Customer and Brand Protection
There are x-ray systems available in the market which are specially designed to ensure the safety of a wide range of packaged poultry products found in supermarkets. Machines can detect calcified bone down to 2mm thickness at a speed of 120 feet per minute (FPM) in products such as chicken and turkey slices, chicken breast fillets or kievs in trays, chicken nuggets in bags, and chicken pâté in plastic trays or glass jars.
As well as providing unrivalled bone detection, x-ray equipment is simultaneously capable of detecting metal fragments, glass shards, mineral stone and high-density plastics and rubbers in poultry applications. By detecting contaminated products before they leave the processing plant, the technology can help to protect consumers and brand reputations, as well as minimize the risk of customer complaints and food recalls.
2. Quality Assurance
Modern x-ray systems are multi-tasking quality assurance systems. In addition to detecting physical contaminants, for packaged products, such as chicken breasts in trays, x-rays for poultry inspection can simultaneously count components and calculate total and zoned mass, helping to reduce product giveaway and prevent underweight packages from reaching customers.
As well as enhancing productivity and helping to avoid recalls by ensuring consistent product quality, end of line inspection gives brands and retailers ultimate peace of mind.
3. Cost Savings
Installing an x-ray pipeline system at the beginning of the production process to inspect poultry in the form of breasts, ground meat or trim affords processors many advantages in terms of cost savings. Contaminants can be removed before being ground into products saving time and money by preventing damage to downstream processing equipment and before further value is added to products through processing and packaging.