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Picking the bones out this!

31 March 2023

Poultry processing company, Smithfield Murray has installed two X-ray solutions to help detect and remove bone and cartilage from its products.

Smithfield Murray handles around 250 tonnes of meat each week, destined for a range of retail outlets and food service companies. The dedicated X-ray inspection systems for poultry were supplied by Ishida and installed in 2021 at the company’s BRC Grade AA purpose-built plant in Manchester.  

The two X-ray machines feature dual energy technology which incorporates two-line sensors – one which takes images at high energy and one at low energy. These are then compared, to provide a better overall image of the product offering a clearer contrast between the product and any low-density foreign bodies, such as bone fragments. Should any foreign body be identified, the product containing it will be rejected and returned for re-trimming.

Dual energy X-ray inspection is said to be well-suited to the needs of the poultry industry, where the density of the product and the potential contamination can be very similar in density. Removal of low-density foreign bodies, such as bone and cartilage, is essential as the majority of poultry products need to be supplied boneless for use in recipes such as ready meals, deli products, pies and pastries. 

“Consumer expectation is that meat is boneless, but due to the relatively young age of many chickens at slaughter, their bone development isn’t at full density. This can leave cartilage or soft bone fragments in the meat, which we need to remove before supplying product to our customers,” explained Pawel Charazmusiewicz, Operational Production Manager at Smithfield Murray.

Minimising risk
To minimise the risk of foreign bodies, some retailers require a ‘200% check’. Previously, Smithfield Murray’s foreign body inspection process was manual, with an initial check during trimming and a more thorough search further down the line. This was not only time-consuming but exposed the meat to several stages of manual handling.

“While the overriding decision on which X-ray solution to employ was based on machine capabilities and performance, space was a big issue,” said David Hrubos, Operational Technical Manager at Smithfield Murray.

One of the company’s industry peers, which was already using the Ishida IX-G2 suggested a site visit and from this it became clear that the solution offered the right combination of quality and design to suit Smithfield Murray’s set-up.

The IX-G2 offers a cost effective, compact solution for poultry producers who need high accuracy in detecting low-density bone, bone fragments and cartilage. To match the high speeds of poultry processing, the IX-G2 models used at Smithfield Murray are the dual lane variant, which can give throughputs in excess of 100 fillets per lane.

The first Ishida X-ray poultry solution was installed early in 2021 in the primary preparation area, where chicken is trimmed in readiness for use in children’s meals.  This environment was ideal for training and calibration, with Ishida supporting Smithfield Murray to achieve the right balance for each application.

Once calibration was complete, the second IX-G2 formed part of a new ‘Opti’ line, which was configured with the anticipation of an X-ray machine being included.  Therefore, installation had to be plug-and-play, a swift and efficient process that took place in June 2021. 

Prior to installation, Ishida explained best practice for positioning chicken products as they enter the X-ray machine. Smithfield Murray’s engineering team created a practical solution by adding prominent markers onto the conveyor so that employees know exactly where to place the poultry.

Since installation, both inspection systems have been working on a daily basis. 

“It’s about quality of product and a key part is improving food safety,” said Charazmusiewicz. “By adding the IX-G2s to our operation, we can deliver 300% inspection – trim, machine check and visual recheck.” 

“X-ray inspection means less manual handling, quicker feed and improved productivity.  The team has quickly adapted to using the machines and we have added X-ray technology to our standard induction routine,” concluded Hrubos.

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