A large Chick-fil-A sign welcomes attendees to the 2014 International Production and Processing Expo in Atlanta, claiming the city to be the “chicken eating capitol of the world” in cow speak. That may or may not be entirely true, but it is certainly the center of the poultry processing world this week.
To kick off the event, Novus International hosted a luncheon for over 150 attendees from around the world featuring remarks by Dr. Shelly McKee of Auburn University on how consumer preferences are driving innovation in poultry processing. “In the United States, poultry consumption is around 82.5 pound per person on an annual basis,” she said, which is higher than beef, pork or turkey. McKee says that’s because it is an economical source of protein that is viewed as healthy and “less intimidating” for young people in particular to prepare.
Good consumer demand for poultry in all forms has led to increased bird size in just the past few years. “Our industry has changed to meet consumer demands for further processed products,” said McKee. “We can take those bigger birds and break those down – we may have a breast fillet and portion it for a smaller serving and then cut fajita strips out of that same breast fillet.”
McKee is quick to point out that the industry has achieved these bigger birds through genetics, nutrition and management practices – not hormones since they are illegal in poultry. “We do not use hormones in the poultry but we have other programs that support the growth rate,” she said.
Ten years ago, Auburn developed a two-day “Poultry 101” workshop with Texas A&M and the University of Arkansas which focuses on poultry processing, industry information, and safety. “We also make products. We take chickens through a processing plant, take the meat and make hot dogs, deli loaves, sausages, smoked birds,” she said. “So the last day the people get to eat the product they made.” Novus is one of the sponsors of the workshop, which rotates between the three universities and attracts a wide variety of attendees including processors, marketers and chefs.
Shelly has recently accepted a new position with USA Poultry and Egg Export Council as director of technical services but she will continue to be involved in the field of poultry promotion and education.
Listen to my interview with Shelly here: Dr. Shelly McKee, Auburn University
International Production and Processing Expo Photos