The announcement is part of a three-year £35m Fresh Chicken Strategy and includes automated cutting and deboning technology, which replaces manual deboning using knives, which can process up 60 birds per minute, a chiller, which can process up to 10,000 birds per hour and controlled atmosphere stunning.
Increased demand for home grown UK chicken
John Reed, agricultural director, Cargill’s European Chicken business, told FoodProductionDaily, the investment is in response to increased demand for home grown UK chicken and continuing to develop a long term sustainable supply chain for fresh UK chicken, the company only endorses farming applications that will meet its strict requirements and as a result, 11 farms have or are currently being built.
“We’re two years into a three-year strategy and we are currently rebuilding our first floor to house a new evisceration area,” he said.
“We chose to build the evisceration area on the first floor in an unused space so that construction and installation could be carried out without disturbing on-going production or compromising food safety.
“Once live, this technology will be capable of running at higher speeds with more efficiency, increasing capability and it will be able to harvest additional products from the birds we had previously not used to their full potential.
“Another project we have is installing ultraviolet light (UV) finished pack decontamination technology in our packing area. This technology provides an additional precaution to eliminate any residual bugs that might potentially be present. This technology is scheduled to be running in our Hereford plant by the end of this month.”
According to the British Poultry Council (BPC), chicken is now the most popular meat eaten in the UK. In 2014, approximately 900 million birds were bred, hatched, reared and slaughtered in the UK and another 400 million were imported. The BPC estimated that 95% of the population would eat chicken at least twice in a week and over the course of a year is 6.3 billion occasions where chicken is eaten.
Expanding its hatchery in Shobdon, UK
Cargill currently processes 1.8 million birds a week and with its investment it will have the capacity to process up to two million birds a week. It is also increasing its hatchery in Shobdon, where it can hatch two million chicks, distributed to over 100 farms.
Pilar Cruz, managing director, Cargill’s European Chicken business added chicken has never been more popular.
“Chicken has always been a popular protein and with rising GDP, it is the most efficient protein to produce, not to mention the most environmentally friendly protein,” she said.
“Twenty years ago you might have only eaten meat once a week now you can expect to have some kind of protein with every meal. But while our investment responded to an increase in consumer demand it’s not just about meeting demand for volumes; it’s about meeting it in a sustainable way.
“Our customers and their customers want to know where their food comes from, how it’s produced and that speed/efficiency does not mean that quality and welfare is compromised.”
Cruz added all of the birds Cargill sources and processes are reared to Red Tractor Farm Assurance standards and it is one of the first poultry processors to introduce natural light to all its UK chicken houses.
Cargill European Poultry business in part of a global company, based in Minneapolis, US and employs over 145,000 employees in 67 different countries. It celebrates its 150th anniversary this year.