Learn about what poultry processing is, how it works, and why it’s important to practice safety standards and comply with regulations. Discover how a digital app can improve operations while maintaining safety and quality.
Published 9 Sep 2022
Poultry processing refers to the method of preparing meat from different types of poultry for human consumption. It often involves using sharp-bladed poultry processing equipment to debone, trim, and cut the birds into various parts.
To improve the poultry meat’s quality for consumers, these parts may be processed with seasonings, spices, marinades, and other ingredients. As needed, secondary processing may also be conducted. This is where parts are converted to ready-to-eat products such as hotdogs, sausages, or nuggets.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recognizes that the poultry processing industry is exposed to many serious safety and health hazards. This is why industry standards and regulations are set out to guide the employers, workers, and managers of processing plants in observing safe and quality operations.
According to Hygienic Processing of Poultry for Human Use (Ayele and Pal, 2021), these are the main poultry processing steps:
9 Main Steps of Poultry Processing
As cited by the US National Library of Medicine, the International Labour Organization (ILO) lists the main occupational health hazards that poultry processing workers are exposed to:
Further, traumatic injuries and Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) are also the main health effects reported, especially during the processing and packaging steps. These are caused by rapid, repetitive movements by the workers, and the extensive use of knives and other sharp-bladed tools.
On the consumption side, hygienic and safe processing of poultry products is highly crucial in ensuring quality food handling and safety. This is where a Food Safety Management System (FSMS) is useful. An FSMS helps poultry processors and food business operators comply with international standards and regulations, such as ISO 22000 and the Food Safety Act in the UK.
The poultry processing sector is regulated by the US Department of Agriculture-Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) through the following acts:
Significantly, most of the key regulations focus on the cleaning and disinfection of equipment and poultry products. For instance, USDA-FSIS laid down strict guidelines on how carcasses exiting the chiller must be free from traces of fecal contamination and be at a temperature lower than 40°F.
To ensure food safety, the USDA-FSIS requires all poultry processing plants to implement an approved Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan that outlines the organization’s sanitation program.
Additionally, OSHA recommends following hazard control measures such as:
The risk of contamination is present throughout the various stages of poultry processing. To prevent incidents from occurring at any stage, here are some of the steps that you should take in observing extensive measures and facility cleanliness:
How to Avoid Contamination in Poultry Processing
Poultry processing managers must take steps to reduce the risk of accidents through an in-depth understanding of why unsafe activities and incidents occur in their workplace. These steps can then be incorporated into the processing plant’s job hazard analysis.
Additionally, using digital checklists serves as a first-line approach for quality assurance in poultry processing machines. This specifically helps companies ensure that their equipment meet the legislated safety standards. Ultimately, all these improvements and quality processes help reduce worker injuries and fatalities across the industry.
In every poultry processing plant, safety must be a priority. Every frontline worker must be empowered to bring safe work practices to the heart of operations. Luckily, mobile-first solutions like SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor) help in making all of this possible through features such as:
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Skip the traditional pen-and-paper methods and maximize technology instead. Perform efficient poultry processing operations and inspections by using free digital checklists, such as the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) Audit Checklist and other food manufacturing templates:
Patricia Guevara is a content writer and researcher for SafetyCulture. With her extensive content writing and copywriting experience, she creates high-quality content across a variety of relevant topics. She aims to promote workplace safety, operational excellence, and continuous improvement in her articles. She is passionate about communicating how technology can be used to streamline work processes, empowering companies to realize their business goals.
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