Processing Technologies for Food and Feed
+1 515.254.1260

Insta-Pro Blog


Antibiotic-Free Chicken Production – the Chick-Fil-A Effect on Broiler Production

Posted on: April 15, 2014 Author:

The fast food chain Chick-Fil-A announced that it would only serve chicken raised without the use of antibiotics within 5 years.  Chick-Fil-A is the latest food company to change its production practices.  Some of these emerging trends in food have been discussed on the Insta-Pro blog in the past.

Antibiotics have long been provided to commercially-raised poultry, almost always in the feed or water supply, at low levels.  It was discovered that feeding antibiotics to broiler chickens resulted in growth promotion that could not be solely explained by nutrition.  The effects of antibiotics on gut microbial populations are apparently at least part of how this works.  Changes in intestinal structure are likely also involved, and are different with different antibiotics.  It is probably a combination of effects that results in improved broiler performance.

One aspect of improved performance due to antibiotic use is uniformity.  When antibiotics are fed, the body weights of the birds are closer together (less variable).  This is important in an industry where large numbers of chickens are moved into facilities on the same day, fed for 6-7 weeks, and moved out together for processing.  The less variation, the better.

For example, the research published by Miles et al. (2006) has shown this effect.  Broilers were fed diets with one of two antibiotics, or without any.  The standard error relative to the average body weight after 5 weeks of feeding is shown below.  As each group had identical bird numbers, the data shows the relative variation in body weight.


As you can see in the graph above, antibiotic feeding (represented by the Bacitracin and Virginiamycin bars) resulted in more uniform body weights.


From the same study, antibiotic-fed birds had heavier live body weights (see above).  The data at 7 weeks (not shown here) showed greater advantages with antibiotic feeding.  This is interesting given the trend for heavier birds over the past few years.


To be sure, broiler producers will seek alternatives, such as probiotics, as they phase out antibiotic use.  However, none of the alternatives have been studied as extensively as antibiotics have.  Research on antibiotics in poultry production as far back as the 1950’s is referenced here.


What all of this indicates is that antibiotic-free broiler production will produce some level of uncertainty – less uniform and smaller body weights, both of which go against desires of the industry.  So, what can be done?


The use of high-quality, consistently-processed ingredients in poultry diets will improve performance and consistency.  Soybeans that have been extruded properly will reliably support broiler growth performance.  For example, extruded, full-fat soy has been shown to maintain or enhance broiler performance when it replaced all solvent-extracted soybean meal in the diet.  It is, therefore, important to work with a company with decades of experience in soybean processing – the know-how to consistently produce high-quality ingredients with their equipment.  This will help to remove some of the uncertainty as broiler production evolves.


Service Departments and Scheduled Maintenance

Posted on: April 8, 2014 Author:

Service after the sale is a value added product.  Often times we look at a service business as someone trying to get extra money out of our purchase.  Well, here is some food for thought:

When you do not regularly maintain your equipment, it tends to break easily or not work as efficiently.  When this happens, you have downtime that you did not foresee.  This is the worst type of down time, because it will cost you substantially more than scheduled down time.

Scheduled down time?  How could scheduling down time help?  Isn’t it still unproductive down time?  The answer is NO.  When you break down unexpectedly, you could have a huge mess on your hands and unproductive employees.  You also may not have the parts to fix the problem right away, leading to longer downtime, loss of production, rushed freight charges, etc…

By scheduling your downtime, it becomes an expense,  which you factor into product pricing, just like you do for operating expenses.

For example:

  • I know it costs me $3,000 per day to have my plant out of production regardless of why.
  • If I choose not to schedule my down time, then it will cost $3,000 per day that is not planned into the budget.  I also probably do not have the spare parts that I need, therefore I now  will have to wait on the parts.  Depending on where I am located, this could take up to 10 days.
  • Now, I have had a breakdown that could cost me $30,000 just in down time (this does not include rushed freight) and may have been prevented if I had scheduled downtime to do proper maintenance and kept a supply of parts in inventory for maintenance and/or emergencies.

You will not find every problem with scheduled maintenance but you will always find something that could save you time and money down the road.

Purchasing a quality scheduled service program is not always a waste of money.  In the example above, if I had purchased a scheduled service program from my equipment supplier, I could have saved $30,000 in downtime.  A quality service program could have paid for itself and still saved me a substantial amount of money.

I suggest doing your homework and asking your equipment supplier what kind of service programs that they offer to help manage your downtime and start saving you some serious cash.

Insta-Pro International has an active service department with over 150 years of combined experience.  We have regional technicians to attend to the many different corners of the world.  Give Ray Goodwin or Jim Little a call or send them an email to find out how we may be able to help you!

Ray Goodwin: or +515-205-4719.
Jim Little: or +515-254-1260.

Ray & Mike Malawi 12