‘UA Robot To Cut Chicken With Water Jet

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Researchers at the University of Arkansas are adapting a robot to cut chicken using a fine jet of water.

Joel Walker, a biological and agricultural engineering professor at the UA, says robots and water jets have been used to cut chicken nuggets into uniform pieces, but the UA project is different than any currently in use. The robot, which had previously been programmed to cut with a knife, will remove chicken meat from the bone and skin with a high-velocity water jet before evisceration, or disembowelment, of the birds instead of afterwards, which is currently the process.

The new process will reduce the chance of bacterial contamination of the food supply and increase the comfort level of workers, he says. Poultry companies currently process from 120 to 140 chickens per minute on automated evisceration lines. Some of the birds are cut into sections later by stationary knives on conveyor belts.

The research “could lead to a totally revised process” to help eliminate contamination in poultry plants, Walker says.

Walker says he and other researchers from the Food Safety Consortium – a coalition of researchers from the UA, Kansas University and University of Iowa – are working on the guidance and program systems to operate the industrial robot via computer.

Prime Inc., a Columbus, Ohio, company that makes poultry processing machines, is to supply the water jet equipment. Prime has two robots that currently cut chicken meat. One cuts the meat into slices while the other removes meat from leg and thigh bones.