For poultry processors, water consumption, water reuse, ease of sanitary cleanup and robust operation are key elements driving plant operation and machinery selection today. One turkey processor that knows this well is Virginia Poultry Growers Cooperative in Hinton, Va. Virginia Poultry was one of the first processors of antibiotic-free (AFB) and organic turkey products, and its programs have consistently been recognized by the trade as superior, and verified independently as exceeding government and industry standards. Virgina Poultry administers a proprietary organic program that carries the USDA Certified Organic Seal. 

The cooperative is America’s eighth-largest turkey processor and the second largest in Virginia, supplied by 165 contract turkey growers spread throughout the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and West Virginia. 

Employing 560 people in its 250,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art processing plant, Virginia Poultry’s business has continued to expand since it incorporated in 2004. Today, it processes 25,000 tom turkeys per day, averaging 40-45 pounds per turkey, which adds up to an excess of 250 million pounds of turkey annually. The plant debones the whole turkey, sending the parts out to other plants for further processing. 

“We are processing 900,000 to 1 million gallons of water each day through our on-site wastewater treatment plant,” says Phil Miller, engineering manager with Virginia Poultry. “For every gallon we buy, we have to pay to get rid of this high fat- and high protein-content water.” 

According to Miller, the plant runs one production shift per day and devotes a full eight-hour second shift to cleaning and sanitation of the entire plant. As the company has grown, the cooperative has continued to invest into upgrading its facilities and equipment. 

Its most recent addition, in January 2017, is a sanitary, zero-maintenance liquid/solids separation screen which uses the water stream from its final bird washers, screens it, separates the solids from the water stream, then reuses that water for its bird washers.

The Sanitary, Zero-Maintenance liquid/solids separation screen, developed by Lyco Manufacturing, was designed to not only effectively screen out solids to a very close tolerance of .020 inch, but also to be the most sanitary rotary-drum screen in North America, as well as requiring virtually no maintenance.

“In essence, we are cleaning up the bird wash water stream, then using that same water to wash the birds with twice,” Miller says. “We are getting double the use out of the same water. In the process we are saving 170 GPM. Over a 12-month timespan, that equates to saving 19 million gallons of water, with an estimated cost reduction of $160,000 in water purchases and treatment.”

The screen uses rotary action to separate solids from the water. Effluent enters the drum and as the drum rotates, the suspended particles are screened down to .020 inches. The water is then pumped to Lyco’s dual-canister water filtering system.

“A dual-canister water filtering system takes prescreened water at a rate of 50-400 GPM from the final bird washer water stream,” Miller explains. “The two-canister filters remove more solids, making the water clean enough to be used a second time.”

The Sanitary, Zero-Maintenance screen comes with a spray bar for cleaning during operation. Spray balls inside the tank cover enhance the CIP during sanitation.

The system was designed to have 100 percent access, with side-opening doors to easily access the tank inside.

The Sanitary, Zero-Maintenance screen eliminates trunnion wheels and bearings. It rotates on oil-impregnated bushings. Its maintenance-free design removes the need for routine lubrication of bearings.

“The sanitary screen is very practical,” Miller says. “It is a simple but effective design. We have been running the machine eight hours a day, five days a week for several months now, and we have not had to do almost (anything) to it.” NP

For more information, contact Jeff Zittel, vice president of Applications and Marketing, Lyco Manufacturing at 920-623-4152 or