This article originally ran in the January/February 2013 issue of Food Manufacturing.

The Food Manufacturing Brainstorm features industry experts sharing their perspectives on issues critical to the overall food industry marketplace. In this issue, we ask:

Poultry has long been one of the least automated food processing sectors. As automation equipment becomes more sophisticated, how will poultry processors see their business practices change?

Historically, utilizing equipment designed to mechanically debone poultry meat at high volumes has led to quality and yield problems. Consequently, much of this product has been classified as mechanically separated chicken (MSC) a lower-value designation. As time and technology evolves, these systems are becoming better at avoiding bone contamination, but challenges will always remain regarding their ability to maximize meat yields.

The answer lies in adopting automation in concert with other processing methods that are somewhat more labor-intensive but which deliver a highly attractive ROI. This “best of both worlds” approach involves using more automation, while also augmenting poultry yields and generating higher product prices.

As one example of this dual-track solution, the Whizard® TrimVac™ is a lightweight, powered hand tool that combines trimming and vacuum technology for the best possible white meat recovery. The TrimVac tool enables processors to harvest sub-tender white meat from beneath the wishbone, “eye” muscle lean meat that anchors the breast muscle to the breast frame, as well as lean meat along the rib, keel and back.

Tomorrow’s poultry processing plants will find their greatest success in how they exploit the best that automation offers, while minimizing the downside problems and risks. Innovations such as the TrimVac make it easier for processing plants to adopt automated production methods without sacrificing product yields, quality or price levels.