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March 3, 2023
By John LovettUniversity of Arkansas System Division of AgricultureArkansas Agricultural Experiment Station
Download related PHOTOS
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Some research for poultry processing automation is more than
meets the eye.
A multidisciplinary team of scientists at the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station
are testing to see if hyperspectral images can be used to detect a chicken breast
defect known as “woody breast” that costs the poultry industry millions of dollars
annually and decreases customer satisfaction.
Dongyi Wang, assistant professor of biological and agricultural engineering, explains
that hyperspectral imaging is a non-invasive sensing technique that combines a near-infrared
sensor with a high-definition color camera to capture physical and chemical information.
“The current evaluation procedure is time-consuming and needs a sample tested through
cumbersome laboratory tests,” Wang said.
Woody breast detection with a hyperspectral camera system would take just a few seconds
with a computer instead of grading by hand.
“Woody breast detection by hand can be labor intensive,” said Casey Owens, the Novus
International Professor of Poultry Science at the experiment station. “If hyperspectral
imaging can be used in a poultry processing plant, that labor force could be diverted
to another area.”
Owens said woody breast affects up to about 20 percent of chicken breast meat. Although
it can be diverted for further processing, the loss in premium as a whole-muscle product
accounts for a yield loss worth about $200 million annually in the United States,
“Woody breast is still a safe product. It just can have a crunchy texture in some
cases that is not appealing to customers, but it can be diverted for further processing
into products like chicken nuggets, sausage, or chicken patties where the defect is
not as noticeable,” Owens said.
Woody breast meat is harder to the touch because it has less water-holding capacity
and less protein content, so the meat doesn’t retain marination as well as meat without
The woodiness is more common in larger birds of 8-9 pounds versus a 6-7-pound bird.
Owens said one theory is that the fast-growing birds may be producing muscle faster
than the blood vessels can support them, leading to muscle fiber damage and therefore
increased collagen deposits.
Chaitanya Kumar Reddy Pallerla, a food science graduate student working on the project,
said each image with a hyperspectral camera takes up about 1 gigabyte of data. The
photo is processed by a computer and correlated with a texture map indicating hardness
levels in the fillet created with Owens’ previous research. Once calibrated, the system
would rely on the images alone to detect woody breast.
“What we’re trying to do is collect the spectral data, intensities that were reflected,
and correlate them with texture properties,” Pallerla said. “These are rated with
a texture analyzer initially, and if we find a correlation between this spectral information
and the texture properties later, we do not need a texture analyzer. So, we can use
this correlation and directly interpret the texture properties from the spectral properties.”
Although protein content, water holding capacity and texture properties are considered
the best markers for woody breast detection, Pallerla said most researchers have not
focused on those properties because of the level of irregularities in the sections
of a chicken breast.
Wang said the hyperspectral camera, so far, has detected woody breast meat with about
84 percent accuracy. The goal is to accommodate high-speed sorting on a conveyor belt,
or handheld portable devices, he added.
Pallerla said the research will help fine tune their current texture analysis map
and decrease the variance in detection.
Wang and Owens conduct research for the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station,
the research arm of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. Owens
also teaches classes through the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life
Sciences at the University of Arkansas. Wang teaches classes through the University
of Arkansas’ College of Engineering, and has a split research appointment between
the biological and agricultural engineering department and the food science department.
Pallerla holds a teaching assistant position in the biological and agricultural engineering
To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural
Experiment Station website: https://aaes.uada.edu. Follow on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture,
visit https://uada.edu/. Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk. To learn about extension programs in Arkansas,
contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen
agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption
of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative
Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work
within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas
System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity,
sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran
status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative
Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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Media Contact: John LovettU of A System Division of AgricultureArkansas Agricultural Experiment Station(479) firstname.lastname@example.org