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Electrical Stimulation of Chicken Carcass Makes Meat More Tender

By Sharon Durham
December 17, 2002

A new processing wrinkle developed by Agricultural Research Service scientists may allow older, egg-producing layer hens to be processed like broiler birds. Usually, mature birds are processed for lower-value items such as feed, pressed products like chicken nuggets, or use in canned foods.

ARS researchers J. Andra Dickens, Clyde E. Lyon, Richard H. Buhr and Brenda G. Lyon of the Richard B. Russell Research Center in Athens, Ga., found that electrical stimulation of carcasses makes breast meat from mature laying hens more tender and speeds up processing.

Poultry plants processed more than 8.25 billion broilers in 2000, valued at more than $14 billion. In December 2001, the laying hen inventory was estimated to be 335 million, most of which could be processed as high-quality meat using electrical stimulation.

Processing broilers is an assembly line affair, with time built in for chilling the meat before removing the bone. Breast muscle that remains on the bone for four to six hours after the bird has been processed is deemed to have optimal tenderness.

Reducing the on-the-bone chilling time normally interferes with the process of rigor mortis, making the meat tough and chewy when cooked. But the electrically stimulated carcass is ready to be deboned after chilling for only two hours. This saves processors time, because workers can debone the carcass during the same shift instead of waiting for the next shift.

Read more about this research in the December 2002 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

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