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Poultry Processing

Man holding chicken during poultry processing
A man holds a chicken after the feathers have been removed.

During processing, the bird is converted from its live state to meat products, and eggs are prepared for market.

Small poultry producers often process their birds on-farm. Some states allow small numbers of poultry to be processed on-farm without government inspection (less than 1,000 birds/year or sometimes up to 20,000 birds/year). In a Mobile Processing Unit (MPU), processing equipment is mounted on a trailer and moved from farm to farm and is a way for producers to share resources. There are few small poultry processing plants that are government licensed or inspected to which independent producers have access. If you know of any, let us know ( and we will see if they would like to be listed. Some small and mid-size plants offer both poultry and red meat processing. Good handling practices are particularly important during catching, transportation, and processing. Innovative technologies such as the use of gas stunning to improve welfare and air chilling to improve meat quality can be adapted to small plants.

Eggs are washed in the U.S.; however, there are very few small egg washing machines, except for immersion washers. However, immersion washing is not permitted by the USDA. (If a producer has less than 3,000 layers, the operation does not require USDA inspection.) Each state varies on egg regulations for small flocks. Usually eggs must be candled and washed and held at less than 45°F before selling to the customer.

Related Publications

Related PowerPoint Presentations

  • Small-Scale Poultry Stunning [PPT/10MB]
  • Expansion of Small-Scale, Pasture-Based Poultry Businesses: Improving Feasibility and Access to Processing [PPT/7.9MB]
    Small specialty poultry producers raise free-range or organic poultry that boosts income on limited-resource farms and contributes to agricultural sustainability. Many would like to expand their operations but lack infrastructure and feasibility/business planning tools.

Related Videos

Poultry Processing on the Farm


Tour of a Mobile Processing Unit


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This page was last updated on: January 26, 2015