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Automatic Poultry Inspection Goes On LineBy Don Comis
October 15, 2003
The Automatic Poultry Inspection System developed by Agricultural Research Service scientists is ready for its first long-term testing in commercial processing plants, having just successfully passed a four-day test in a commercial broiler-processing plant. The recent test was done at speeds of 140 to 180 birds per minute (bpm), double previous tested speeds--on the fastest line, just after the carcasses are defeathered.
The system has been tested at various commercial processing plants during the past decade.
For the latest test, Yud-Ren Chen, an agricultural engineer at the ARS Instrumentation and Sensing Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., and colleagues took their inspection equipment to a commercial processing facility. The test was done in cooperation with Stork-Gamco, Inc., of Gainesville, Ga., one of the world's largest chicken-processing plant equipment manufacturers. The Automatic Poultry Inspection System had an accuracy rate of 92 to 95 percent, which was verified by a USDA veterinary medical officer.
ARS has a cooperative research and development agreement with Stork-Gamco to commercialize Chen's system and move it into use among the nation's 300-plus poultry processing plants. The system quickly diagnoses all physical or nonmicrobial, biological conditions that cause an inspector to remove a chicken from the processing line.
In Chen's system, when a chicken carcass--on a hook dangling from a moving chain--passes through a light beam, the interruption triggers a scan with a light probe from about an inch away.
The reflected light is analyzed by a computer using ARS-developed "Automated Poultry Inspector" software to identify variations in external skin color and texture and tissue composition, which are clues to problems.
A second system will be tested in the near future. It uses a digital spectral camera to photograph, with a single click, each chicken at three specially selected light wavelengths.
ARS is USDA's chief scientific research agency.