More and more North American poultry plants are changing their process from water chilling to air chilling. Some major processors in the US are already extremely satisfied users of air chilling tunnels. Processors in Canada have been effectively using air chilling systems for some time now as well. Marel is on top of things, with a product portfolio that is ideally fit for this market.
Immersing products in a spin chiller, until now the most popular chilling method in the US, leads to the absorption of additional water. US processor Bell & Evans puts it this way, "With conventional chilling systems, chickens absorb up to 12% of their body weight in added chlorinated water. This water "weeps" out of the meat and is trapped in the "diaper" you will find in most fresh chicken packaging."
In North America, the words ‘air chilling’ might give potential consumers the idea that the end product is drier and less hygienic. But this is what Bell & Evans says, "Our 100% Air Chilled method means no need for chlorinated ice water, so chickens' natural juices never get diluted or replaced. But that's not the only benefit. Our 100% Air Chilled method brings out the chicken's natural flavor and tenderizes the meat. It also reduces handling and environmental waste."
In North America, disinfectant chemicals are added into the water tank to improve microbial quality. Air chilling doesn't need chemicals and still succeeds in keeping the process super hygienic.
In-line automation & traceability
Usually, rehanging products at the outfeed of a spin chiller involves about 15 people. Air chilling keeps the process completely in-line with less need for labor. It also makes the complete process better traceable. End-to-end traceability, combined with food safety, is high on the priority list for North American customers and consumers.
Optimal product quality
When designing a chilling tunnel, Marel always keeps optimal product characteristics in mind. That is our starting point. A processor may ask for a chicken cooled down to 2ºC [35° F] guaranteed core temperature, with minimal loss of yield, maximum tenderness and perfect shelf appearance. This requires more than just blowing cold air; Marel ensures an optimally chilled quality chicken in line with the customer's wishes.
Cooling a chicken down is not difficult. Getting the maximum out of the process is the real trick. It's all about controlling the micro-climate around each individual chicken, while preventing drying losses, maintaining optimum yield and improving meat tenderness.
A chilling tunnel is the biggest energy consumer in a processing plant and requires a lot of space. In every chilling tunnel design, Marel looks for a technically optimized balance of footprint and energy use, without compromising product quality. We can optimize energy consumption by varying details of the technical execution, such as air speed. Footprint optimization is about adapting the size of the tunnel to hourly capacity, product weight and desired core temperature.
It should now be clear that chilling a product involves much more than making it cold. Other product aspects have to be taken fully into consideration, while the best technical execution will depend on the possibilities on-site and customer requirements. As the authority in poultry chilling, Marel has demonstrated that it has all available knowledge to come up with tailor-made air chilling solutions for every processing need, globally.
Marel is the leading chilling specialist in the poultry industry. We allocate a significant part of our R&D budget to the chilling process. For many years, together with customers and various scientific partners, we have been doing scientific research into the most effective chilling techniques. We are the inventors of in-line maturation chill with guaranteed tenderness, "Plus" moisturizing technology and many more advanced chilling techniques. We have built up a wealth of experience, reflected by one of the most widely spread installed bases worldwide. Not just in Europe, but from China to the USA, customers are using Marel's in-line chilling solutions.