Faced with the current economic realities, farmers worldwide are searching for new options of surviving, as well as expanding their business. One of the many opportunities to grow markets, turnover and profits, is by adding value to farm produce through further processing.  

Chicken is among the most widely accepted muscle foods available, and because of its high-quality protein and comparable lowfat content, continuous development of new products and favourable feed conversion, it is a high-demand food product in the market. Turkey, along with chicken, dominates the world market in the poultry industry due to its increased popularity. Turkey is valued for its nutrition and healthy image as well as the variety of convenient forms in which it is available. 

Poultry is prepared for canning using the following processes: 

  • Slaughter. 
  • Scalding. 
  • De-feathering. 
  • Evisceration. 
  • Chilling.
  • Packaging, if the canning operation is not carried out in conjunction with fresh poultry processing. 

The canning of poultry is usually carried out in conjunction with a fresh poultry-processing operation, which enables the canning operation to proceed without delay. However, where this does not take place or in order to ensure a readily available supply of poultry, the canning plant usually receives eviscerated, frozen carcasses, which are then thawed by soaking in running water. 

The water temperature is approximately 21°C, and the soaking operation is done for a period ranging between one and two hours, depending on the size of the carcass. Furthermore, it is important that the pre-cooking process should immediately follow the thawing operation. 

As poultry meat is extremely perishable and canned poultry is an excellent medium for the growth of heat-resistant organisms, special precautions must be taken during the preparation and processing, and processes capable of destroying heat-resistant organisms must be employed in order to prevent spoilage. 

These precautions include: 

  • Not keeping the filled, unprocessed cans for more than 30 minutes prior to processing. 
  • If processing lines are moving too slowly in order to fill a retort in 30minutes, each crate must be processed as it is filled. 
  • Strict sanitation should be maintained throughout the canning operation, in order to keep bacterial build-up and contamination as low as possible. 

Turkey products 

  • Canned boned turkey: Canned boned turkey products are used in the preparation of poultry salads, poultry pies, poultry casseroles, as well as sandwiches. 

Chicken products 

  • Boned chicken: Canned and boned chicken is a popular product in the preparation of chicken a la king, chicken salad, chicken casseroles and pies, as well as in sandwiches. 
  • Canned chicken à la king: Canned chicken à la king is very similar to creamed chicken in its appearance, with the exception that green peppers, pimientos and mushrooms are added to the ingredients. As with boned chicken, special precautions must be taken during the preparation and processing, and processes capable of destroying heat-resistant organisms must be employed in order to prevent spoilage. 
  • Canned chicken and noodles: Chicken and noodles are often canned in collaboration with roast chicken, where the large chicken pieces are used in the canning of roast chicken and the smaller pieces are then canned with noodles. As with all chicken products, special precautions are required during processing to prevent spoilage. 
  • Canned whole chicken: The canning of whole chickens entails canning the dressed and drawn chicken together with the gizzard, heart and liver in a jelly in cans sized 404 x 700cm. 

Further processing options 

The products discussed above are only a small sample of the numerous processing methods and products available to the poultry processor. Other options include canned chicken in jelly, canned roasted chicken, canned stewed chicken, potted chicken, canned roasted turkey, canned turkey in jelly and potted turkey.  Theresa Siebert, Institute for Agricultural Engineering, ARC 

The Manual on the Agro-Processing of Poultry contains complete information on the products discussed above, as well as many other processing methods and products available to the poultry farmer and processor. The manual is available from the ARC’s Institute for Agricultural Engineering. Contact Elmarie Stoltz on 012 842 4017 or stoltze@arc.agric.za for more information.