Marel: A smooth transport of broilers from grower to processor

Smooth-running logistics in the supply of broilers to the processing plant make a very significant contribution to animal well-being and the overall efficiency of a poultry processing plant. It’s in everybody’s interest that broilers arrive unstressed and undamaged at the processing plant. This not only ensures the animals' comfort during their journey, but it also plays a crucial role in achieving the best possible meat quality.

Posted on Jul 27 ,00:05

Marel: A smooth transport of broilers from grower to processor

Marel’s modular GP and ATLAS systems can be adapted to all desired levels of automation and production capacity. There are various cleaning and disinfection options to limit any risk of cross-contamination to an absolute minimum. Integrated weighing, product detection and dust extraction are available as options.

Once broilers in the farm reach slaughter weight, they will be caught, crated and loaded onto trucks for the journey to the processing plant. Catching, loading and transport are, however, all intrusive activities, which will be new to birds and which will stress them.

A lot can happen during loading and transport. Broilers can have bruises or broken bones. Parts of their bodies can become trapped. They can have been loaded on their backs and not be able to right themselves. Their legs can have splayed. They can have been crowded together and overheat. Birds can even die. All of these issues, impinging as they do on bird welfare, are ethically unacceptable. They will also be unwelcome to both growers and processors, as higher percentages of DOAs and downgrades will cost them money.

Although automatic catching machines have been on the market for a number of years, 95% of broilers are still caught manually around the world. To avoid damage to broilers, life must be made as easy as possible for catchers. This also means paying close attention to the design of the modules into which birds, once caught, will be loaded.

Although plastic crates are still used, operators mostly prefer multi-tier containers or modules. These modules should be brought into the growing shed and placed as close as possible to where catching is actually happening; catchers should not have to walk any distance with birds. It is particularly important that their design allows modules to be placed close to walls or corners, so that those last few birds can be caught and loaded. Extractable trays are therefore not preferred, they take up too much space. Modules should also allow birds to be loaded easily with minimal risk of damage. Loading openings should therefore be big enough to allow birds to be loaded downwards onto their feet. Module design should minimize the risk of heads, wings or legs becoming trapped during loading. Marel’s GP and ATLAS transport modules open up to give a wide loading opening.

Full modules should be loaded on the truck as quickly as possible. Loading a truck will typically take up to an hour. The journey to the processing plant shouldn’t last for hours and hours. Ideally broilers should not be crated for more than a few hours. Being on the truck also has its risks for the birds. Measures will have to be taken to protect them from extremes of heat and cold and from inclement weather. Broiler chickens produce a lot of heat and exhale humid air. Heat stress can quickly become an issue. Transport module design should allow for efficient ventilation both when the truck is parked and when it is in motion. Particularly important is floor design, allowing birds to grip when the truck brakes, takes turns or drives a bumpy road.

Floor design should also take account of the manure which will inevitably accumulate during the journey. Broilers should not sit in their own manure and it should not be possible for this manure to fall on birds beneath. Marel’s GP and ATLAS transport modules consist of trays equipped with tried and tested AirFlo floors. These unique floors have proved themselves over many years in all climate zones. They make use of the Venturi principle, which ensures a continuous flow of air to birds and therefore optimum ventilation during transport. Channels in each floor collect any droppings from the birds. Birds therefore sit dry and the risk of crosscontamination from droppings falling onto birds in the tray below is significantly reduced.

Headroom is particularly important as birds tend to sit during the journey, potentially blocking off any ventilation provided by openings in the floor. They should be able to sit comfortably with their heads up. GP and ATLAS transport systems provide plenty of headroom for broilers to sit up straight. ATLAS SmartStacks take great pride in offering the highest headroom in the industry.

Modules should be designed to carry as many birds as possible, but also as comfortably as possible. If more birds can be transported in one trip, fewer trips will be needed. This not only saves fuel but also helps the environment, as the CO2 footprint per bird transported will be lower. There should be a perfect balance between animal well-being and the maximum number of chickens transported. Marel’s ATLAS SmartStack modules come as close as possible to this equilibrium. Modules should also be easy to clean and disinfect, reducing the risk of disease transmission to a minimum.

Marel is dedicated to supporting poultry processors in optimizing all aspects of live animal handling, even if no equipment is involved. This approach offers a complete program to minimize stress throughout the entire process, starting from catching, loading, and transportation until the broilers’ arrival at the plant. Processors can decide for themselves whether they want to invest in such a program, which may include practices like covering trailer sides with curtains or establishing a lairage. The suitability of a lairage option may vary by region. The goal is to replicate a farmhouse environment, providing the birds with a comfortable space that looks like their natural habitat, shielded from extreme temperatures, wind, or precipitation. A lairage area can be a temperature-controlled hall or an outdoor shelter, depending on the climate, ensuring the birds’ well-being throughout the process.

It is recommended to allow broilers to rest upon their arrival at the processing plant, following unloading from the truck and before processing begins, for up to two hours in a specially designed lairage, so that their heart and breathing rates can return to normal. Undue stress, unacceptable in itself, causes metabolic changes which will negatively influence meat quality. After such a period of rest, broilers have completed their journey from the growing shed and are ready to proceed to the processing line.

Marel’s live bird handling systems provide effective and humane conditions for loading and transporting birds from grower to processor. It is only right that we should concentrate on delivering a journey from growing shed to processing line, which is as smooth and stress-free as possible. The systems’ in-plant logistics meet and even go beyond the highest demands as far as line speed, hygiene and durability are concerned.

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