Working in the food industry means compliance with the directions of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In 2014 the USDA released their Compliance Guide that includes the chilling guidelines changed to modernize recommendations with the available technology of today’s poultry processing chillers. The specifications involve new temperature and time regulations with regard to the USDA’s Salmonella Initiative Program (SIP). The purpose of SIP is to control and prevent the levels of bacteria and pathogens that contribute to spoilage.
Section III, Article H of the USDA Compliance Guide scraps the 2012 time and temperature requirements with a new procedure that is a performance based approach. This allows businesses within the poultry slaughter industry to establish their own time and temperature guidelines. The USDA now requires businesses within the poultry slaughter industry to put their chilling procedures in writing as part of their HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) or Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for sanitation. Eviscerated poultry is to be maintained according to the proper time and temperature requirements outlined in a company’s procedural protocols. Chilling is specifically defined as “air chilling” for the proper method of maintaining poultry carcasses at the proper temperature. By including chilling procedures as part of a company’s documented regulations, a company is meeting the USDA requirement to validate that their chilling practices are up to current standards.
- Document the scientific process of how the company’s poultry chiller operates.
- Include supportive technical data to support claims of the company’s chilling process.
- Include reports of regular periodic testing of the chilling process to prove the adequacy of poultry chillers.
Although it may sound counter-intuitive to let companies decide for themselves the temperature and length of time to chill poultry carcasses, that, perhaps, they may not act in the public’s best interest, is, in fact, a concern already considered by the USDA. However, their conclusion is that for companies who want to stay in business, they know it is in their best interest to protect their product adequately against spoilage. By de-regulating and allowing a business to determine independently how to operate efficiently and effectively, it allows flexibility for smaller slaughterhouses to stay in business. The 2012 requirements put a burden on small businesses whose production levels were lower thus making it difficult for them to maintain adherence to the time and temperature regulations.
The adoption of the air chilling method has marketing benefits in addition to safety benefits in the preservation of poultry carcasses. Consumers are interested in cleaner, safer foods. An “air chilled” label has been proven to have marketing appeal. This method also opens up markets outside of the United States. The USDA adopts the definition of air chilling as established by the European Union that allows the inclusion of antimicrobial liquid mists that are used on the poultry while chilling. The key factor to compliance is that the majority of time poultry is in the chilling process it be fully air chilled at the proper temperature.
Chiller Time & Temperature
As the USDA no longer establishes time and temperature guidelines for poultry processing, what, then, is the best time and temperature procedure to use? The University of Georgia’s Agriculture Extension’s Department of Poultry Science has published a reference guide (source no longer available) for poultry processors to solve this problem. It recommends a rapid decrease in carcass temperature, goal temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit within two to four hours after slaughter. Chilling actually begins after the carcass has been dipped in a chlorine mixture that reduces the development of pathogens. Poultry would then be hung on a drip line for a few minutes to allow moisture level from the chlorine mixture to evaporate. Additional moisture interferes with the efficiency of chilling to the recommended temperature. For best results, keep chiller temperature at 36 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
For more information on how to get the best performance out of your poultry chiller, please contact us. Our skilled professionals can assist you in the rental or sale of a chiller as well as the service needs of an existing one.