How Commercial Poultry Processors Can Save Millions in Water Use

As water shortages begin to affect even the most developed countries, commercial poultry processors are moving toward a perfect storm of fresh water supply problems. Increased restrictions on water usage and wastewater quality are already old news for many companies, but the toughest challenges are still to come. Here are a few of the disturbing statistics that will affect the industry in the near future:

In 60 percent of European cities with more than 100,000 people, groundwater is being used at a faster rate than it can be replenished. 1

By 2025, 800 million people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could be under stress conditions. 2

Water withdrawals are predicted to increase by 50 percent by 2025 in developing countries, and 18 per cent in developed countries.1

While water costs for poultry processors are problematic at present, they may soon become financially prohibitive for companies that don’t proactively move toward alternative methods of water reuse at every stage of operation. This article reviews some game-changing technologies developed by a Kansas-based company (American Water Purification, Inc. – for the recovery of hot water, process water and chiller water. We’ll also take a look at a well water recovery system that can help poultry processors reduce dependence on municipal water supplies.

Hot water reuse

The AWPI hot water recovery system cuts both energy and incoming water costs by recovering overflows from the chicken scalder and paw picker and returning them to the front end of the process. There’s no rocket science to AWPI’s system, just a recombination of existing technologies that can help producers significantly reduce both water and energy costs.

“It’s not that we’ve invented anything new,” says AWPI CEO Dan Gates. “We’re just combining established ideas in new ways. The simplicity of our system is one of its biggest advantages because there’s no proving period needed for the science behind it. It works reliably, right now, and that’s important in the increasingly critical water supply environment because companies need to be able to hit the ground running when they adopt new technologies.”

The hot water reuse system components are simple:

    1. A .01 micron ceramic filter system removes total suspended solids from used scalder water, returning it to the front end of the hot water system at 85-95 percent transparency. (Computer controls automatically initiate back flushes when needed, and alert a technician in the rare situations that require human intervention.)
    2. An ultraviolet antimicrobial treatment kills Salmonella, E-Coli, Campylobacter and other pathogens, sanitizing the water to USDA-approved standards. This method leaves additives such as pH adjusters untouched, so these chemicals don’t need to be reapplied when the water is reused.
    3. Heat energy is recovered in the overflows, returning water to the front end at a usable temperature with no heat loss in recovery. Water temperature is automatically regulated for more efficient defeathering, and all system trends and events can also be recorded and monitored via Internet for assurance and trackability of best practices.

This system saves enough money that unit installation costs are usually recovered in the first few months (See Fig. 1).

Fig. 1:

Process water reuse systems

The AWPI process water recovery system uses a four-stage ozone (rather than chlorine) process to purify and remove solids, BODs and CODs from process water. Ozone kills pathogens 3,000 times faster than chlorine, and has none of chlorine’s storage costs or safety issues (ozone is generated onsite, has a very short half-life, and breaks down into normal, diatomic oxygen upon decay).

This system recovers up to 40 percent more water for reuse than screen and chlorine systems, which can make the difference between compliance and noncompliance with the new water use restrictions being imposed by many municipalities.

One of the more troubling international developments in recent months was Russia’s ban on the purchase of poultry from U.S. companies because of potentially carcinogenic levels of chlorine in the product. Ozone systems can solve this problem, as well.

A recent case study showed annual savings of more than $1 million at a single facility (see Fig. 2).

Fig. 2:

Chiller water reuse systems

Like the process water system, AWPI’s chiller water re-use system uses a patented, ozone-based technology to kill Salmonella, E-Coli, Campylobacter and other pathogens faster and more thoroughly than chlorine, returning USDA-approved water to the chiller. The reduction in operating costs can be significant (see Fig. 3).

Fig. 3:

Well water recovery

For many companies, the final component in reducing water costs will lie in the utilization of previously unusable well water. The cost-effective removal of iron, sulfur (and its odor) and many common well water pathogens have long stumped engineers, but once again, ozone comes to the rescue. AWPI’s simple, ozone-based technology offers a well water treatment alternative that works well and makes financial sense (installation costs can often be recovered in just a few months; see Fig. 4).

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, ozone is the most effective primary disinfectant available for drinking water, more effective than chlorine against microorganisms, including the chlorine-resistant Cryptosporidium and Guardia, which have invaded food and water supplies in recent years, causing illness and death.

Fig. 4:

A combination of solutions

The looming, global water shortage is a complicated problem that will require a combination of solutions, applied at various stages of the commercial poultry processor’s operation. One thing is certain: to continue coasting along with legacy technologies will leave companies unprepared for the demands of the coming decades. On the bright side, there are, at last, cost effective technologies that can keep these companies in the game.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Wynn Ponder is a freelance writer who covers health, science, industrial and marketing topics.