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The Critical Factors Impacting Automatic Breast Deboning

Sep 20, 2023

Traditionally, breast filleting has been carried out manually on labour-intensive cone lines, a practice that persists to this day. However, there is a growing trend toward automating this process, and it’s not without reason. Firstly, manual filleting relies heavily on skilled workers who must ensure both high yield and quality. Unfortunately, even with skilled workers, human factors can introduce inconsistencies throughout the working day. Fatigue and lapses in concentration are unavoidable. Moreover, as production line speeds increase, manual cone lines occupy considerable space. As a result, the global poultry industry has witnessed a significant surge in the adoption of automatic deboning lines, encompassing both semi-automatic and fully automatic systems. However, when going from manual to automatic deboning, several factors must be considered.

Comparing Manual and Automatic Deboning Processes

In the realm of manual deboning, skilled workers possess the ability to adapt the process to suit the unique characteristics of each breast cap, allowing them to meet specific quality standards and address certain market requirements. However, when it comes to automation, the adjustment to each individual product is achieved through the use of measuring tools, thereby reducing the need for highly skilled workers to do only the machine setup and maintenance tasks. Furthermore, the incorporation of pre-installed machine recipes further simplifies the operation.

Manual deboning is a labour-intensive process, which heightens the processing plant’s reliance on human workers and amplifies associated costs. Additionally, the human factor introduces uncertainty regarding reliability, such as ensuring consistent worker attendance and achieving predictable production outcomes. Sustaining a team of skilled workers typically necessitates ongoing training efforts, whereas automatic solutions merely require basic tasks like loading products onto the machine. However, it is worth noting that humans possess the adaptability to handle a wide range of incoming products, whereas machines may struggle to optimize their performance if the products fall outside their predefined scope. Moreover, to maintain a certain level of production flexibility, automatic deboning machines must be capable of processing various types of products.

One of the most notable distinctions between automatic and manual deboning lies in the required footprint, particularly when operating at high speeds. Manual deboning, due to the high number of workers involved, necessitates a substantial amount of workspace to comfortably accommodate the task. Conversely, automated tools require minimal space and can operate at higher speeds.

The Importance of the Maturation Process

The maturation process plays a crucial role in transforming the muscular tissue of meat after the animal has been sacrificed. As the demand for boneless breast meat and further processing continues to grow, processors are seeking shorter aging periods. However, striking the right balance in maturation time is essential to achieve the desired deboning quality and yield.

Reducing the maturation time strengthens the intermuscular tissue, allowing for the extraction of visually appealing fillets that remain intact with minimal residual meat on the carcass. However, this approach increases the risk of bone content. On the other hand, longer maturation periods often result in damage to the tissue structure during pulling and scraping, leaving streaks of meat on the carcass. Nevertheless, fillets that undergo an extended maturation process typically exhibit no presence of bones.

Thus, the maturation time of the incoming product significantly impacts the deboning yield and fillet quality. While a lower degree of maturation may initially seem to offer a higher yield with less residual meat on the carcass, it necessitates trimming to address increased bone content. Trimming requires additional workers and inevitably leads to the removal of extra meat around the bone. In contrast, matured incoming products may leave more residual meat on the carcass, but they require minimal or no trimming. Skillfully managing the maturation process is crucial in finding the "sweet spot" that achieves the optimal balance between yield and quality.

Other Factors Influencing the Deboning Process

When implementing an automated deboning process, several requirements must be met for the incoming product. Foremost, the breast product loaded onto the machine should be in good condition. This entails anatomically cutting the wing knuckle to enable the deboning machine to perform the cutting and scraping operations accurately. Additionally, proper cutting of the breast product on the cut-up system is crucial to ensure a suitable fit onto the loading saddle.

Numerous farming-related factors, including aspects like growth conditions, nutrition, and genetic anomalies, exert a substantial influence on the deboning procedure. Weak bones or muscular abnormalities, like spaghetti meat, pose challenges for many processors.  Moreover, the selection of the chilling method also plays a pivotal role in affecting the deboning process. For example, water chilled products carry a heightened risk of skin tearing during the skinning process. Conversely, they do offer the advantage of easier skin removal.

The human factor still plays a role in the automatic deboning process. It is essential to load the incoming products correctly and consistently to ensure the machinery's correct and full utilization. Inline processing tends to be gentler on the incoming product, while matured products brought in bulk can be more susceptible to damage due to the product handling involved. Naturally, maintaining product quality throughout the entire process, right up to the deboning machine, is crucial.

The New Breast Cap Deboner 660A

To meet the increasing demand for deboned breast meat, BAADER added the automatic Breast Cap Deboner 660A to the deboning portfolio. This advanced deboning machine emulates the precision of human deboning by utilizing a measuring tool to determine the dimensions of each breast cap and automatically adjusting the scraping and cutting tools in real time. The result is exceptional performance, delivering high yield and top-quality fillets.

The Breast Cap Deboner 660A offers remarkable flexibility, accommodating a wide weight range for incoming breast caps, ranging from 380 to 1200 grams (+/- 200g within the same machine set-up). Moreover, this deboner can produce a variety of fillet products, including those with or without skin, as well as clean and intact yagen products.

By minimizing the need for manual labour, the Breast Cap Deboner 660A significantly reduces labour costs and eliminates human uncertainty. Only two manual workers are required to load the breast caps onto the machine saddles. This reduction in deboning staff also has a positive impact on the overall deboning footprint. Occupying less than 9 meters, this compact machine easily fits into existing facilities and can even free up space when transitioning from manual to automatic deboning.

Breast Cap Deboner 660A

2 workers, 8.4 metres

Manual dual-lane deboning line

28 workers, 21.3 metres

To enhance control and monitoring, the Breast Cap Deboner 660A incorporates a Human Machine Interface (HMI) control panel located on the plant floor. This user-friendly interface empowers operators to efficiently monitor and adjust deboning process parameters, ensuring optimal performance and yield. With intuitive navigation and pre-set recipes available on the screen, production setup becomes fast and simple, especially during production shifts.

The new Breast Cap Deboner 660A provides an excellent alternative to labor-intensive manual deboning, without compromising on quality, yield, or flexibility. It streamlines operations, maximizes productivity, and meets the evolving demands of the poultry industry.

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