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COMMERCIAL BROILER PROCESSING: A BOOMING INDUSTRY



Broilers are special breeds of chickens raised under intensive system for meat production.  They can attain marketable weight between 6 – 8 weeks. A fasting growing broiler can attain 2.96kg in 6 weeks. It is therefore important to select breed for commercial broiler processing with fast growth rate, high feed conversion ratio (FCR), energetic, robust and good meat quality and yield. Broiler processing plants are not much with few players in the industry. Country like Nigeria had placed ban on Poultry products importation to encourage local production and boost her economy. Export opportunities also abound for processed and packaged chickens to countries that allow importation of poultry products.
Broiler processing is an effort to add value to broiler meat and making it available anytime to consumers. Vast number of consumers valued processed and packaged chickens. Broiler processing utilizes many equipment/machineries, the processing operations basically include slaughtering, scalding, de-feathering, eviscerating, washing, chilling and packaging/labelling. The type of processing capacity largely depends on investment capacity, processing 50 – 100 birds per day may utilize manual operation, processing of 200 – 5,000 birds per day may utilize both manual and mechanical operations however, plants producing 6000 - 250,000 birds per day have automated operation. A 7 week old broiler weighing 3.6kg when processed will yield 65% carcass and 10% giblets (edible visceral). Before you set up broiler processing plant, it is expedient to consider good processing practice, Federal licensing and market/marketing. Processed broiler can be sold as fresh or frozen whole and cut-up. A whole chicken can be sold from 1200 – 2300 depending on the weight.
60.15% annual net profit/sales can be realized from business producing and processing 4000 birds per month. Steps involved in broiler processing include the following;
Slaughtering: Birds are deprived of feed for 8 – 12 hours before slaughtering to reduce the amount of feed in the gut and possibility of tearing during processing which would cause faecal contamination of the carcass. Small processors usually place birds in Funnel-Shaped Kill Cones while large plants hang them on shackles and stun (the process of electrocuting the bird)  them before killing. Cones should be sized in such a way that will prevent the bird from flapping its wings or backing out of the cone. The use of special lightening (like blue light) in plant calm the bird and prevent flapping and injury. After killing, bird should be allowed to bleed thoroughl to prevent dark spot on meats.
Scalding: Slaughtered birds are immersed in hot water to loosen feathers and facilitate picking; a little drop of liquid soap may be added to scalding water for better penetration. A scalder that will regulate water temperature can be built or bought to handle large number of birds at once. A temperature of 50oC – 60oC for 90 – 120 seconds is recommended for scalding broiler.
De-feathering: The quality of the de-feathering is related to the scald. If the scald water is too cool, the feathers won’t loosen; if it is too hot, the skin will tear. In order to handle large number of bird, mechanical picker is recommended. The mechanical picker removes feather by abrasive action of rubber fingers in the picker. Pin feathers and fur may be hard to remove mechanically however; they can be removed by pinning (removal of pinfeathers by hand) and singeing (passing the bird through a flame to remove fur).
Eviscerating: before evisceration properly begins, the head, oil glands and feet are removed. Evisceration can be done on a flat surface made of stainless steel but easier done on evisceration shackles. Scissors, knife, or a handheld vent-cutter gun with a circular blade, lung puller or a handheld gun used with a vacuum is needed for proper evisceration. Remove inedible viscera or guts (intestines, oesophagus, spleen, reproductive organs, and lungs). Loosen the crop so it will come out with the guts. The edible viscera or giblets (heart, liver, and gizzard) are collected.
Washing and Chilling: Washing ought to be done before chilling. The carcass should be thoroughly washed inside and out. At times, additive (like chlorine) may be added to washing water to reduce bacteria load on the carcass. Chilling is done after washing by simply soaking the carcass in chilled water in a tank. Carcass is chilled to a temperature of 5oC for 4 hours.  Carcass can also be air-chilled. Air-chilling takes place in an air-chilling equipment (insulated room or tunnel) in which the temperature is kept between -7oC and 2°C by coolers in the ceiling. Air is blown from nozzles directly into the cavity of each bird or around it. Chilling prevents microbial growth. A good thermometer should be used to check the temperature. It’s important to allow broiler carcass to age for 4 hours before it is eaten or frozen. During aging a temporary toughening (Rigor mortis) occurs which convert muscle to meat.
Packaging/Labelling: Processing up to this stage requires good and befitting packaging. Processed chicken can be sold as fresh whole or cut-up. Frozen whole chickens are also sold. Special packaging should be designed for each final product. Storage temperature determines shelf life of the carcass. Modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) may be used in large plants to increase shelf life. Frozen poultry will stay flavourful for about 6 months, but after that it may become rancid. Don’t store poultry for more than 12 months. Frozen chicken that will stay a long time should be vacuum-packed and the packaging material should be strong, moisture proof and stretchable. 




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