PoultryWorld - Inline thigh filleting up to high capacities

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Inline thigh filleting up to high capacities

The market for thigh fillet is opening up, offering plenty of opportunities worldwide. To benefit fully from this development, poultry processors can now process thighs by using the Stork Thigh Fillet System. It is an inline solution which can keep up with the highest hourly throughputs while processing thighs with utmost precision and consistency.

Marel Poultry has developed a globally unique inline thigh deboning concept, which can handle high-speed lines. This system can produce thigh fillets of high yield and quality with minimal trim operators or inspectors required. The system turns whole legs into deboned, deskinned thighs and drumsticks, operating at the same speed as the rest of the processing plant.

The Thigh Skinner takes care of precise skinning for premium product presentation and hygienic processing. Photos: Marel Stork
The Thigh Skinner takes care of precise skinning for premium product presentation and hygienic processing. Photos: Marel Stork

Thigh meat on the rise

In some countries, mainly in the Far East, chicken thigh meat has always been more popular than breast fillet. But nowadays, there’s a global trend to upgrade thigh meat, especially for its taste. It’s not just the big market in China, where thigh deboning equipment is almost a standard facility in every processing plant. Scandinavia also has a large appetite for thigh fillets, while Latin American markets love thigh meat products too. In the USA and Russia, thigh products are appreciated more and more. As a consequence, industrial thigh deboning solutions will be needed worldwide to produce the required amounts of thigh fillets.

In parts of the world where thigh meat is popular, the Stork Thigh Fillet System will be fully operative in a plant’s double shift operation. Other poultry processors, operating in markets where breast fillet still leads, now have the option of processing fresh thighs up to the required capacity, turning boneless thigh meat into a high value product.

Thigh deboning takes place in 2 different carrousels for left and right legs.
Thigh deboning takes place in 2 different carrousels for left and right legs.

Butcher quality from an inline system

The Stork Thigh Fillet System makes use of 5 carousel modules. From knee joint incision, via skinning and bone extraction to knee cap removal and fillet harvesting, every task is meticulously performed. The techniques used are ingenious, though simple and easy to control. The processor can choose which thigh products he wants to debone with easy management of production orders.

Manual shackling or rehanging is no longer necessary, as the process remains completely inline after the cut-up process. The system mechanically mimics the manual work of a skilled operator, ensuring a consistently processed ‘butcher quality’ thigh meat. A consistent performance can be achieved for all products entering the system, irrespective of size or quality. The inline concept is more stable and much faster than manual deboning could ever be. The reliable process requires an absolute minimum of operators to check and trim. Therefore it saves considerable labour.

Gentle handling

It is the task of the thigh deboning system to preserve the quality of the supplied anatomic legs throughout the deboning process. That’s why bone handling is very gentle and far from being ‘aggressive’. Putting too much pressure on the bone to get it out could mean the loss of a carefully harvested oyster and thus loss of quality. This is exactly what Marel Poultry wants to prevent.

Instead, this system uses a unique push-pull technique which makes for long-term reliability and low cost of ownership. During the entire process, thigh bones are never subject to excessive forces but are gently handled, notwithstanding the high speeds.

While popping out the knee cap, the Thigh Fillet Harvester succeeds in efficiently adding a maximum amount of knee joint meat to the higher value thigh meat.
While popping out the knee cap, the Thigh Fillet Harvester succeeds in efficiently adding a maximum amount of knee joint meat to the higher value thigh meat.

Yield and quality

Around the knee cap of a chicken leg, there is always valuable meat which usually isn’t harvested. The new Stork Thigh Fillet System succeeds in efficiently adding the knee joint meat to the higher value thigh meat. A maximum of meat from around the knee is harvested without putting undue stress on the drumstick. What pops out automatically, without any human labour needed, is a bare knee cap.

The Stork system produces thigh fillet with highest yield and with minimal loss of valuable meat. Thigh fillets now can have a maximum amount of meat attached, with virtually no losses, damage or bone remnants. Meat is smooth without roughness or ruggedness. Product presentation – natural or marinated – is first class and is eminently suitable for retail sale and for delicious meals.

How does it work?

The precise positioning of the leg, before operations are executed, is a precondition for proper deboning. Hanging in the ACM-NT shackles, legs are accurately presented to the various modules of the Thigh Fillet System. Each leg is automatically put into place, having adopted its natural bend, for gentle and precise processing.

The result after the thigh deboning process: a skinless deboned thigh with separate skin, bone, knee cap and drumstick.
The result after the thigh deboning process: a skinless deboned thigh with separate skin, bone, knee cap and drumstick.

The Stork Thigh Fillet System consists of up to 5 carousel machines.

  1. The Knee Joint Cutter performs the first operation by making a pre-cut. It is of utmost importance for the rest of the process to have an extremely precise drumstick-pre-cut. It guarantees optimal process results as well as quality drumsticks.
  2. The Thigh Skinner carousel is an example of Marel Poultry’s ability to carry out precise operations at high speed. Automated skinning is critical for premium product presentation and hygienic processing. The skinning carousel can also be bypassed when the market requires skin-on thighs.
  3. The Thigh Deboner left removes the bone of the left thigh. An ingenious though simple technique separates bone and meat in the most effective and profitable way.
  4. The Thigh Deboner right does the same with the right thigh.
  5. Finally, the Thigh Fillet Harvester demonstrates the art of removing the knee cap without leaving any meat on it. All meat surrounding the knee cap remains attached to the thigh meat.

Without any human intervention, the product passes 5 carousels, with a retail quality thigh fillet as the result.

More information: marel.com/tfs