4 Factors for Creating an Effective Holding Area

by David Beavers, World Technical Support - Processing Specialist

The holding area is the first of three phases during poultry processing. Although each step is very different, they are all equally important to maximizing yield. A successful holding area keeps the birds comfortable before processing and prepares them for all subsequent steps.  

Maximizing yield by following the proper steps during processing is the difference between an average and outstanding returns. Cobb is committed to providing the best broiler stock for our customers, but we also want to help them get the most out of their purchases.

There are four main factors to create an effective holding area and help maximize yield – environment, time, design and measurement:

Holding Environment

Holding areas provide broilers with cool, well-ventilated spaces that block exposure to direct sunlight. This environment protects the birds’ welfare and eliminates several causes of yield loss:
  • Thermal stress: Thermal stress, or overheating, is the main issue because it directly contributes to live shrink and rate of Dead on Arrival (DOA) birds. Combat thermal stress by using high-speed fans to remove heat and create a cooling wind for the birds.
  • Live shrink: Live shrink is the amount of body weight that birds will lose from the time they arrive at the plant until they are processed. It is caused by thermal stress or excessive holding times. Shrink loss should never be more than .5 percent per bird. If birds shrink too much, they will create problems further down the line.
  • DOA: Research shows that thermal stress causes approximately 40 percent of all DOAs. This includes DOAs during transportation and holding time at the plant. To comply with industry standards, the percent of DOA birds must not exceed .25 percent.

Holding Time

Holding time is part of a comprehensive plan that includes transportation as well as plant operations. The best results are those that have the shortest holding time at the plant. Unless otherwise specified, plants should aim for a holding time of two hours or less. 

Holding Area Design

There are two main types of holding areas – Lairage, where birds are unloaded on arrival, and Holding Sheds, where birds remain on trailers until the next phase. Both designs are very effective at controlling temperature, ventilation and sunlight and keeping the birds comfortable. 

Measuring and Monitoring

Loss in the holding area is controllable, just like any other stage of processing. Whether plants measure each load or conduct seasonal tests, ongoing monitoring is necessary to track results and identify problem areas. Visual inspection is another invaluable method for tracking birds’ performance and welfare on the fly.  Follow these steps to preserve the broilers’ volume, maximize yield and increase returns. For more information about maximizing yield through each step of poultry processing, download our guide to Achieving High Yields.

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