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Chicken Processing Plant Geared Up for Research Business / February 12, 2004 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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Chicken Processing Plant Geared Up for Research Business

By Sharon Durham
February 12, 2004

A new, state-of-the-art pilot facility allows researchers in the Agricultural Research Service's Poultry Processing and Meat Quality Research Unit to design research projects with protocols that cannot be tested in inspected, commercial facilities. The new processing facility was constructed at the Richard B. Russell Research Center in Athens, Ga., under the watchful eyes of ARS food technologist Clyde E. Lyon and agricultural engineer J. Andra Dickens. Both Dickens and Lyon recently retired from government service.

Construction of the processing plant took about 18 months from conception to completion, with about a year needed for construction modifications and equipment installation. The equipment was obtained from Simmons Engineering and Stork-Gamco Inc., and a number of pieces were specially made. Because of limited space, the pilot facility can only process batches of chickens rather than continuous production, but part of the facility can be run at commercial speeds of up to 180 birds per minute. Since the plant's completion in September 2002, the research group has conducted two complete processing projects, and numerous other projects have been completed using one or more pieces of the new equipment.

The facility was designed and constructed to allow the research group to install prototype imaging equipment and technology to detect fecal contamination on processed carcasses. As this technology is refined and made ready for commercial testing, the pilot facility will allow the researchers to conduct a good field test before going into the commercial arena. According to Dickens, there can be many differences between research testing and pilot plant testing, so being able to tweak the new technology in a pilot situation can save time and money. Because the pilot plant can closely simulate commercial processing conditions, the researchers can demonstrate to industry members that the research can be commercially applicable, where appropriate.

Read more about this research in the February issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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Last Modified: 2/13/2004
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