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Automated Chicken Inspection Ready To
Commercialize By Don
August 30, 2002
Moving automated chicken inspection into the nation's 300-plus
poultry-processing plants is the goal of cooperative research between the
Agricultural Research Service and
Stork Gamco, Inc., of
Gainesville, Ga., one of the largest chicken-processing plant equipment
manufacturers in the world.
Stork Gamco will soon test a system, developed by ARS
agricultural engineer Yud-Ren Chen in Beltsville, Md., that moves 140 birds a
In a processing plant, the test equipment will be mounted
alongside a processing line at the point right after the chickens are killed
and defeathered. The equipment takes two complementary readings of the
carcasses' condition. For one, a probe bounces light off the carcasses. The
reflected light goes to a spectrophotometer and then a computer-- which is in a
room away from the moist conditions of the processing line--for analysis.
Differences between light shining on the chicken and light reflected back are
due to variations in external skin color and meat tissue composition that are
clues to problems.
For the second reading, a camera takes three spectral images of
each chicken through different color filters. Then the computer reads the
spectral images and decides if the carcass is wholesome or not, as well as
identifying local tears, bruises or tumors and carcass size.
Together, the equipment pieces quickly diagnose physical or
biological conditions causing inspectors to reject chickens. They spot both
definitely unwholesome carcasses for rejection and suspect ones requiring
closer human inspection.
The equipment does not detect bacterial contamination. But the
ARS Poultry Processing and Meat Quality
Research Unit in Athens, Ga., has signed a companion cooperative research
and development agreement with Stork Gamco to find a way to spot contamination
from the ruptured crops of chicken carcasses and from fecal matter, both of
which contain bacteria.
For more on machine vision inspection of chickens, see the
August 2002 issue of Agricultural
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.