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Chicken expo leaves nothing to the imagination
Industrys leaders gather to mingle, shop their wares
Keith Moffitt of Bettcher Industries, Inc. uses a whizard trimmer to cut the ammonia burns off chicken feet in a demonstration Wednesday at the International Poultry Expo at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

ATLANTA — The world has come to Atlanta to see the latest and greatest in poultry feeding and processing.

The International Poultry Expo, now in its 62nd year, draws visitors from 100 countries to the Georgia World Congress Center for a hands-on look at everything that takes place between the hatchery and the supermarket.

While official numbers have not been released, crowds appeared smaller than in years past. Exhibitors say some U.S. companies are reducing expenses by sending fewer employees to the show, which runs through Friday.

Dane Woods, general manager of Gainesville-based equipment manufacturer Cantrell, is encouraged by the first day.

"Like a lot of people, we were holding our breath on who was going to show," Woods said. "But we’ve had a good amount of interest so far. People are asking about specific equipment, such as our gizzard machine."

Woods’ company has recently formed a strategic alliance with Food Mate, a manufacturer of processing equipment from the Netherlands. At this year’s show, Cantrell’s equipment is shown alongside Food Mate’s.

"This is our first alliance with a U.S. company," said David Hazenbroek, owner and director of Food Mate. "Our products are in the cut-up and deboning areas. Cantrell is a long-time recognized name in the U.S. market, and we are working on some leads already."

The show comes in a challenging time in the U.S. poultry industry, which endured high feed and fuel prices in 2008.

Jason Kempker, vice president of Gainesville’s Avian Technology, said the company has offered an exhibit at the show for all of its 20 years.

"A lot of our customers come in just to see the new technology and to touch, see and feel what’s going on," he said.

The company has laying hens that produce hatching eggs. It also sells poultry equipment and vaccination devices.

Kempker said there is an advantage to a smaller crowd.

"The people that are here are serious," he said. "Throughout the years, we’ve had a lot of people come and browse. With this kind of economy, people are more focused on what they’re doing."

A top Georgia poultry official said the show tends to boost optimism and camaraderie in the industry.

"It’s a good time to catch up with friends," said Abit Massey, president-emeritus of the Georgia Poultry Federation.

The show includes 887 exhibitors from every segment of the poultry and egg industry, including feed milling, live production, hatchery, processing, further processing, packaging, commercial egg, marketing and all support activities.

The show also provides college students in agriculture-related field a place to look for jobs.

The College Student Career Program coordinates recruiting sessions where qualified students may interview for full-time employment or internships with participating companies. Students with majors in poultry and animal science, food science, engineering, industrial technology, veterinary medicine and business take part.

In addition, it is an opportunity for college students to experience the largest annual gathering of poultry people, technology and services. Exhibits and educational programs also help students make the transition from academics to industry.