Air-chilling poultry can reduce water use in processing plants

By Diane Palmer

chicken carcasses hanging in rows

About nine billion chickens are processed in the United States each year and 63 billion gallons of water are used to cool them when they are immersed in cold water or an ice and water mixture.

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service requires commercial processing plants to chill poultry to an internal temperature of  at least 40° F immediately after slaughter to prevent development of bacteria.

Julie Northcutt, Clemson food safety specialist, has been working on a way to chill the birds using air instead of water. “Air chilling would reduce water usage by as much as a gallon per bird and water conservation is critical for the future of the poultry industry,” she said. 

There are two ways to air chill. One is dry air chilling, which sends a cold air blast inside or across the bird. The other is evaporative air chilling, which uses a cold air blast and water-mist combination.

For information: Julie Northcutt, 864-656-3688,