It was a classic “a-ha Moment” for Geno Gasbarro.
The inventor already held many patents for poultry processing machines, and had even built a company with Col. Saunders that helped Kentucky Fried Chicken become what it is today. But when he was looking for a new process to streamline in the late 1980s, the answer was right in front of him.
“When you walked into a chicken plant at the time, it wasn’t hard to see that you had 10 or 20 people working at tables pulling skins off chickens,” he says. “It was hard, repetitive work. You see that, and you realize pretty quick that there has to be a better way.”
Before the skinner was invented, manual skin removal had the highest incidence of Repetitive Motion Injuries (RMI) of any job in the poultry industry, notes Prime Equipment Group President Joe Gasbarro. Now, those injures have disappeared.
“One of the Skinner’s greatest achievements has been the elimination of hand injuries associated with manual skin removal,” Joe Gasbarro says. “That has prevented thousands of people from becoming disabled, and has saved our industry many tens of millions of dollars.”
Geno can’t remember exactly how the idea came to him, but it formed itself in his mind clearly from the start: He sandwiched a tough paddlewheel against a curved pinchblock, and then conveyed chicken over it. The paddlewheel caught the skin against the pinchblock, and stripped it off, whole.
It was the very epitome of a “simple solution.”
“The first machine was made for thighs; it was simple, and it was pretty much maintenance-free,” Geno says. “From there, we branched out.”
Some of those early thigh machines are still in operation—after more than 30 years of continuous service. Along the way, the design was improved to skin boneless chicken breasts, then turkey breasts, scapula, thighs and drumsticks. Varying sizes were added to the line. The original 6-inch width is now available in 12-inch , 18-inch and 24-inch widths.
Never ones to stand still, Geno and the R&D crew at Prime Equipment Group improved the design over the years, designing “H2Low” models to reduce water use, and even No-Water models for poultry processors who need them.
The idea was so successful, and refined so well, that more than 800 Prime Equipment Group Skinners have been sold over the years, making it one of the most successful poultry processing machines in existence.
In fact, if you walk into any poultry processing plant in the U.S., you’re more likely than not to find Prime Equipment Group poultry skinners on the line. And with Prime expanding to other countries like Mexico, Russia, Brasil and more, Geno’s “simple solution” has gone global.
For his part, Geno admits didn’t realize then that his skinner would be such a success.
“I don’t know that I ever envisioned how widespread it would get,” says Geno, who still works at the Prime R&D facility everyday. “But I do enjoy coming up with the ideas and making them happen.”