Streamlining Wastewater Treatment in Poultry Processing

With the steady increase in poultry processing rates, there has been a corresponding increase in wastewater pollutant concentrations. Despite mechanical improvements in wastewater treatment, many poultry processors continue to pay unnecessarily high fees for municipal water discharges. Michigan Turkey Producers (Wyoming, Mich.), a $100 million annual processor, in conjunction with Lyco Manufacturing (Columbus, Wis.), has set up a patented, state-of-the-art screening system for its poultry wastewater treatment.

Like many poultry processors, Michigan Turkey Producers, a medium-sized poultry processor of live tom turkeys handling 4.5 million birds annually, keeps a tight rein on their biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) and total suspended solids (TSS) levels in their discharged wastewater. But, where most processors are careful to limit poultry processing byproducts from entering and contaminating their wastewater stream – because of the difficulty in removing them prior to discharge – Michigan Turkey operates quite differently. The company places little limits on the volume of particulate organic matter allowed to be put through their wastewater, because of a double screening system they employ, built by Lyco Manufacturing, which effectively removes sufficient load before discharge to leave levels of BOD and TSS well within municipal standards.

“We process just toms, roughly 20,000 birds per day,” says Mike DeVries, plant engineer for the company. “Our average bird weight is about 40 pounds live and 34 pounds dressed. Ninety percent of everything we do is boneless. We ship to industrial users who cook our products into a deli product, a log or loaf. Our brands are the Golden Legacy Brand and Silver Legacy Brand. Sixty percent of our meat goes out fresh, 40 percent goes out frozen. The greatest part of our distribution, about 70 percent, is in the mid-west U.S. and east coast; but we also sell (the remaining 30 percent) into Russia, Japan, China, Central America, Canada and South Africa as well. Our total facility is comprised of three buildings on 42 acres; we have 375,000 square feet of operations space with 187,000 of that for live-bird processing.”

DeVries says the wastewater system was purposely set up to handle anything that comes down it, any volume and concentration of particulate matter. “Consequently, we have a lot more load coming down our drains that we have to get out than other processors. This is different from how most poultry operations function, where usually they are trying to keep the load in their wastewater at a continually lower concentration throughout processing, but this is because their screening system can’t handle it. We are moving 700,000 to 800,000 gallons of wastewater a day through our system without any jam ups at the screening, and we are ending up with BOD and TSS ratings well within municipal standards.”

“In our picking operation, we drop right to water with our feathers, and we actually move our feathers via water,” he continues. “So we had to have a Lyco screen for that as well. The cost for us on the rendering side, or downstream side of processing, was the moisture content, so with the Lyco double drum screen we found that we generate an extremely dry feather and consequently avoided any surcharging for moisture. That has been an enormous benefit all the way to the point that our rendering actually had to add moisture to process our feathers. The advantages are avoiding a surcharge, and also the advantage of being able to haul more volume with less weight.”

Poultry processing is a relatively high water usage activity, as is typical of many food processing industries. For broilers, five to 10 gallons are used to process one five-pound, average-sized bird. For turkey processors the volume of water used is considerably higher – the average live weight of slaughtered turkeys exceeds 27 pounds. In some cases, such as the processing of large toms, as done by Michigan Turkey, bird weights can reach up to 40 pounds, with water consumption for processing in the range of 35 to 40 gallons per bird. It is not unusual for a poultry processor to generate 750,000 to 1,500,000 gallons of wastewater daily.

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