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Chicken Processing Plant Geared Up for Business


A new, state-of-the-art, pilot processing facility has been constructed in Athens, Georgia, under the watchful eyes of food technologist Clyde E. Lyon and agricultural engineer J. Andra Dickens. The new facility allows researchers in the Poultry Processing and Meat Quality Research Unit at the Richard B. Russell Agricultural Research Center to design projects with protocols that cannot be tested in inspected, commercial facilities. It also allows researchers to process birds under conditions as close to commercial as possible, ensuring that food safety and food quality related research will be commercially feasible.

"The pilot plant, from conception to completion, took about 18 months, with construction modifications and equipment installation taking about a year," says Dickens. "The equipment was obtained from Simmons Engineering and Stork-Gamco, Inc., and other pieces were specially made."

The facility's evisceration line can be run at commercial speeds up to 180 birds per minute. Since September 2002, when the facility opened, the research group has completed two large-scale processing projects as well as several other projects that have used one or more pieces of the new equipment.

The facility was designed and constructed to allow installation of prototype imaging equipment and technology to detect fecal contamination on processed carcasses. As this technology is refined and readied for commercial testing, the pilot facility will give the researchers a good field test.

"There can be many differences between research testing and pilot plant testing. By being able to tweak new technology in a pilot situation, we can save a lot of time and money," explains Dickens. And they can demonstrate to industry members that the findings can be commercially applicable, where appropriate.

Food technologist Julie Northcutt is using the facility to test her research findings that may dramatically reduce the amount of water used in broiler processing plants. This would pose significant savings for the industry.—By Sharon Durham, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.

J. Andra Dickens and Clyde E. Lyon are in the USDA-ARS Poultry Processing and Meat Quality Research Unit, Richard B. Russell Agricultural Research Center, 950 College Station Road, Athens, GA 30605; phone (706) 546-3205 [Dickens], (706) 546-3418 [Lyon], fax (706) 546-3633.

"Chicken Processing Plant Geared Up for Business" was published in the February 2004 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.



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