A top meat packer is counting its chickens with AI.
What’s new: Tyson Foods is using computer vision to track drumsticks, breasts, and thighs as they move through its processing plants, the Wall Street Journal reports.
How it works: Workers in slaughterhouses typically count the packages of poultry parts bound for market, then use hand signals to communicate the totals to another worker who enters the numbers into a computer. Tyson is replacing them with cameras that feed neural networks. The company has installed the system in three U.S. factories and plans to roll it out in its four other supermarket packaging factories by the end of the year.
- The camera system identifies cuts of meat along with inventory codes, while a scale weighs them.
- Workers double-check some of the system’s findings.
- Tyson says the system is 20 percent more accurate than the human-only method.
Behind the news: AI and robotics are coming home to roost in the poultry industry and beyond.
- The Tibot Spoutnic (shown above) is a Roomba-like robot that roams commercial chicken pens so the birds lay eggs in their nests rather than on the floor.
- Cargill is developing machine learning algorithms that monitor poultry farms for clucks indicating the birds are distressed or ill.
- A precision deboning bot from Georgia Tech uses computer vision to slice up chickens more efficiently than human butchers.
- AI is helping to manage other food animals as well: There’s face recognition for cows, activity trackers for pigs, and movement tracking to optimize feeding schedules for fish farms.
Why it matters: Food companies are looking to AI to drive down costs amid uncertain market conditions. Tyson’s profits took a hit last year. A recent industry analysis warns that the vagaries of feed prices, geopolitics, and avian flu make this year precarious as well.
We’re thinking: Consumers around the world are eating poultry. Any company hoping to meet demand had better not chicken out from the latest technology.