Eder Barbon, veterinarian, slaughter specialist and quality botanicals at Cobb-Vantress in South America.
Brazil slaughters an average of 23 million chickens per day, according to a publication published by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) in March 2021, with 4.610 million tons exported in 2021, which is a 9% increase over the previous year.
The all-important domestic market accounts for the highest consumption with about 67.8% of the total production, according to the Brazilian Animal Protein Association (ABPA). These figures reaffirm that during the last two years of the epidemic, the Brazilian animal protein industry has not paralyzed its production, as it has in some countries. Thus, the sector was able to play an important role in meeting consumer demand in Brazil and abroad.
Although it reached a record high in the production of chickens, the profitability was narrow due to the high production costs, which increased the pressure on the industry to search for better indicators for animal husbandry, in particular, better feed conversion, better returns in the slaughter plant and reduced losses in the process production.
In addition to better productivity, quality assurance and food product safety are key factors and become a competitive differentiator of great importance for the poultry industry to continue growing and offering high quality protein at low costs and positive margins.
In addition to the rise in the prices of raw materials, we are unfortunately following the increase in all costs of operations in factories, especially labor, which currently has a significant impact on the overall cost of slaughter. Faced with this, the poultry industry was necessarily subject to automation at all stages of the production chain, especially in slaughter plants.
The slaughter and processing of birds consists of several important stages, from the arrival of the birds at the slaughter platform to the packaging and dispatch of the finished product. All stages, from hanging the birds, stunting, bleeding, scalding, plucking, evisceration, cooling, chopping or whole chickens, packing, freezing or cooling and shipping, are all important and require constant and continuous monitoring throughout the slaughter period. The goal is to avoid deviations and losses that can directly affect the quality of the product, the final return of the plant and the final profitability of the company.
Process standardization and control, as well as plant productivity, are extremely important and represent a major competitive differentiator between companies. This is in the hands of the team, as opposed to raw material prices and costs which are mostly market dependent.
To get an idea of the importance of yield, which directly affects the final economic result of the company, we consider, for example, that only 1% loss in the final crop yield of the plant for a company that slaughters 200,000 birds / day. , at the current average price of the product mix and the average dollar for 2022, represents about $2 million per year.
The process of blasting or eviscerating birds, which was done manually in the past, as well as other slaughtering operations, is today mostly fully automated, with modern equipment designed to perform the work quickly and efficiently and adjusted to maintain safety and quality of carcasses with low rates of losses.
We consider that the main objective of evisceration in the plant is to efficiently clean the carcasses and prepare them for the refrigeration process, maintaining quality and productivity. Without underestimating the importance of other processes in vegetation, evisceration of birds is a delicate moment, during which the carcasses are opened with a wound in the skin of the abdomen, and the viscera and intestines are exposed and removed from the abdominal cavity. Any deviation or misalignment of the equipment can lead to breakage and cause pollution and losses.
Preventive maintenance of equipment, as well as momentary adjustments for each batch type according to live weight difference, is extremely important and greatly reduces deflections and potential loss of viscera bundles such as: heart, gizzard, liver and high-value economy offal.
Performance should be measured and equipment adjusted as necessary, with a minimum frequency of each batch change. The best possible efficiency of the equipment is expected, between 97% and 99%, and the equipment should have a written preventive maintenance program and corrective actions in case of deviations, as well as an excellently trained workforce for maintenance and operation. .
An important factor that can negatively affect the quality of the evisceration process, which often goes unnoticed at the factory, is the quality and lack of hooks in the slaughter line, as well as the empty, carcassless hooks that pass through the scattered equipment. The factory should have software that includes new and repaired hooks that can ensure quick replacement if necessary.
In addition to the live weight of birds requiring adjustments, the percentage of uniformity and coefficient of variation (CV) of birds within the same flock, the greater the CV variance and weight difference between birds of the flock should be considered. The same batch, the more difficult it is to adjust the equipment, and therefore the greater the probability of deviations. Within this concept, more sexed chickens with less variation in weights (CV) provide evisceration. Another limiting factor to ensure efficiency in the process, avoid contamination and losses which is not only dependent on equipment modification is the quality and standardization of pre-slaughter fasting.
Monitor, control and adjust the fasting period so that the maximum number of birds in the flock properly adhere to the fasting period between 8 and 12 hours, ensuring regular hydration of the flock through water intake stimuli between 4 and 6 hours after cutting the feed. main condition.
Visceral or intestines that are excessively full or too empty directly affect the percentage of contamination and losses during the evisceration process. It must be borne in mind that in addition to evisceration, good watering ensures that the loss of the final crop is reduced and the state of well-being of the birds is improved.
We conclude that automation in the national poultry industry, especially the process of evisceration, as well as in other sectors of the industry that are highly labour-dependent, is inevitable. Forming, preparing and training high performance teams to operate these new technologies efficiently, as well as receiving raw materials from the field (live chicken) with good carcass quality, with good oozing, low percentage of skin lesions, healthy, standardized and with pre-slaughter fasts for the batch is within the recommended range It is necessary to obtain high returns and low ratios of losses, ensuring better profitability and survival of the company in times of high input cost and low product prices.