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Tyson Turns to Robot Butchers, Spurred by Coronavirus Outbreaks

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A robotic meat-cutting system.

In a former truck-maintenance shop near headquarters of meatpacking giant Tyson Foods, company engineers and scientists are pushing into robotics.

Credit: JBS USA Holdings

Engineers and scientists at meatpacking company Tyson Foods are developing an automated deboning system to process meats in order to avoid spreading infectious diseases like Covid-19, as well as maintaining productivity amid staff shortages.

Tyson CEO Noel White said the pandemic likely will accelerate company investments—currently estimated at $500 million—in technology and automation.

The company's president, Dean Banks, said training robots to cut and sort meat, which involves soft material and variability, is a massive operational challenge compounded by low temperatures and blood splatter at meat plants.

Tyson technicians are attempting to teach machines to identify and quickly adjust to differences in meat coloration and shape. Banks said the technology is necessary to relieve plant bottlenecks due to a lack of skilled workers. Tyson designed a water-jet cutting system that carves up chicken breasts more precisely than humans.

From The Wall Street Journal
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