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Co-product Handling: Making the Most of What You Have

Sep 28, 2022

Each year, more than 100 billion tons of chicken meat are produced worldwide. As poultry production continues to grow, also the number of poultry by-products and waste grows. With the increasing demand for protein worldwide, waste management and the efficient utilization of meat by-products become more important. Efficient utilization of poultry processing by-products can potentially increase revenues and decrease costs for disposal of waste. The challenge is to recover valuable by-products in a cost-efficient way or convert waste into valuable by-products. Four ways how you can add value to your supposed poultry leftovers:

1. Blood – high nutritional value with its plasma being a real gamechanger

More than four million tons of blood are collected from poultry slaughterhouses each year. A small amount of it is used to make e.g. blood sausages, blood curd, or bread for human consumption. The majority is going into feed supplements in livestock feed due to their high nutritional value. However, there is one part of the blood that contains high potential functional ingredients: blood plasma. It can be separated easily from the red blood cells by precipitation methods or via centrifugal forces. The functional components in blood plasma can change and control food textures. Blood plasma proteins have excellent emulsifying capacities, foaming properties, and gelling properties which can be used in the food industry as natural functional ingredients. Besides that, bioactive compounds in blood plasma can be isolated and capitalized for medical uses in the pharmaceutical industry, like in culture media, biological assays, or as stabilizers in vaccines. Purified blood or blood components can also be used to help replenish blood or fluid loss in animals.

2. Feathers – a great source of proteins

Obviously, feathers are plenty in the poultry processing industry – a high potential co-product, as they consist of up to 90 per cent protein. The challenge with these keratin-rich feathers is that they are indigestible to humans and animals due to their strong stabilizing protein bonds and have low value as such. Processing feathers in the right way, can turn them into a new, more valuable co-product. Enzymes from microbiological origin or steam pressure cooking can help to degrade feathers into more valuable feather digests. Feather digests can be used to improve animal feed formulations and as fertilizers for agricultural purposes. On top of that, specific protein fractions can be isolated from the feather digests because of their anti-hypertensive, antimicrobial, and antioxidant activities.

3. Organs – a delicacy to some, a functional ingredient for others

Animal organs and glands offer a wide variety of flavours and textures, and often have a high nutritional value. Especially livers, hearts, and gizzards are used for human consumption. In various European as well as Asian countries, also some other parts are treasured as a delicacy, like the intestines, the crop, and the pre-gizzard. Organs not used for human consumption, mainly end up in pet food or animal feed. Some organs have the potential to be further capitalized in the pharmaceutical industry. Animal glands for example are exploited for their hormones, enzymes, and other functional ingredients. Poultry gallbladders have traditionally been used in the pharmaceutical industry in countries including China, India, and Japan. Bile contains interesting components such as bile salts, colour pigments, proteins, and cholesterol. Bovine and porcine bile has often been used for treating digestion problems, bile tract disorders, and constipation. Bile salts supplements have further been promoted for their health benefits. The challenge with poultry glands is their size – this makes it difficult to harvest in a cost-efficient way. However, the potential of making full use of them is huge though.

4. Further processing for high-quality minced meat or pharmaceuticals

Cut-up and deboning will leave you with miss-cuts, trimming rests, and other products not selected as an end-product sale. Further processing of supposed leftovers offers high-quality minced poultry meat. With its Refiner series, BAADER offers a technology that has set new standards in the processing industry. It ensures the quality of raw materials in a gentle manner and maintains the natural fiber structure of the meat for further processing. It thus allows processors to gain added value while contributing to a sustainable future. Using minced poultry meat, one must comply with the international and local requirements for fresh meat – they might further be restrictions as to which part of the animal is allowed to be processed. Not just meat, but also bones and cartilage (rests) can be further processed. Co-products such as bone and cartilage contain a considerable amount of the protein collagen. They can be degraded by hydrolysis leading to the formation of gelatin. Gelatin can be used in the food industry for its functional properties, the pharmaceutical industry in capsules as well as cosmetic products.

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