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Wolff poultry knives in use on a processing line.

Poultry Shears vs. Poultry Knives: What's Best for Professionals?

Efficient and safe manual poultry processing requires using shears or knives designed for each task. Plant management typically chooses the preferred tool based on industry best practices, state and federal regulations (when applicable), and method optimization according to the specific application.

Three key factors guide whether workers use knives, shears, or both. These considerations are the need for speed, safety, and higher yields. Read on to learn more about poultry processing shears vs. poultry knives and which may be right for your application.

Factors Influencing Tools Selection

Shears and knives have specific uses and are not always interchangeable. However, for some tasks, the choice comes down to individual worker preference. Generally speaking, you will usually find more poultry knives than shears in a processing plant. Typical usage rates fluctuate, but there are around four knives for every pair of shears per shift. 

The length and location of a cut and hand positioning guide whether shears or knives work best. Longer cuts on awkward body areas often favor knives for better control and access. Shears excel at shorter cuts in easy-to-reach spots. 

In plants with automation, manual touch-ups require weighing factors like precision versus speed to choose the right tool. Workers may use both knives and shears when hand-processing birds that are missed by machinery.

Several other considerations can influence the buying decision:


The decision between using a knife or a shear often depends on which one allows for safer worker motion for the task at hand. The goal is to reduce potentially hazardous motions that can lead to debilitating musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). 

Knives require more repetitive motion, leading to fatigue and potential injuries. The spring-loaded design and leverage of shears reduce hand strain. However, the shears' larger size requires caution to avoid finger injuries. Proper handling and care with both tools is essential.

Choosing tools to promote worker safety helps reduce MSDs. Analyzing the repetitive motions required for knives versus shears in your specific process reveals which option best minimizes injury risk. This insight should guide the ideal tool selection.

Dull shears can also increase the risk of repetitive motion injuries. The extra force needed to cut with poorly sharpened shears adds strain on workers' hands, wrists, and arms. This repetitive trauma can lead to debilitating injuries over time.


Plants typically require 2-4 times more knives than shears. While individual poultry shears tend to cost more than a single knife, the total knives often exceed shears in overall cost. Factor in replacement and resharpening frequency over time, and the total expense of knives is usually higher.

Design, quality, workmanship, and engineering also impact the total ownership cost for shears and knives. Though cheaper products may initially seem like a better value, the low quality means replacing and resharpening them more often. 

Ease of Resharpening

Knives are often quicker to sharpen than shears. However, systems like Twice as Sharp®  also make shears sharpening just as fast and easy. This professional scissors sharpening device includes a 100-grit sharpening wheel to create an incredibly sharp edge. It also has a honing wheel for a shiny, cosmetic finish.

There are several other sharpening considerations, such as:

  • Total time it takes to resharpen
  • Thinning
  • Quality
  • Overall sharpening process
  • Testing
  • Sharpening equipment

At Wolff Industries, we are releasing our new, faster WereWolff sharpening system. We designed it to sharpen scissors related to meat processing and industrial manufacturing. Our fastest average times are currently approximately 20 seconds.

Cutting Through Bone

Cutting through bone with a standard knife or shears is challenging and causes the blades to dull quickly. Some poultry, like quail, contain more bones than others.

This is where the Wolff PS775S Poultry Scissors come in handy. These stainless steel utility shears feature corrugated blades that slice through bones like a hot knife through butter. They can withstand the daily grind of cutting through bone easier than a standard pair of shears.

The Wolff PS775S Poultry Scissors also require less hand pressure as they are considered a high-leverage shear. They feature design elements such as:

  • Thicker blades
  • Wide bill
  • Long shank (the distance between pivot and handle)
  • Short blades
  • Longer movement arm
  • Greater/higher leverage
  • Stainless steel to reduce/prevent rusting (i.e., “food safe”)

Shears like the Wolff PS775S can cut through bone without experiencing excessive dulling. Their thick, serrated blades require less hand pressure. In a pinch, knives will work for softer bones but tend to dull quickly.

Wolff poultry shears maximize yields on the processing line.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Poultry Knives vs. Poultry Shears

Poultry Shears

Poultry Knives



- Better leverage reduces hand strain

- Thinner blade allows precision trimming

- Can cut through bone and cartilage

- Pointed tip accesses tight spots

- Blades close to protect fingers

- Straight edge good for slicing joints

- Sturdy for chopping tasks

- Fits in hand like a pen for control



- Large size requires two hands

- Requires repetitive motion

- Not ideal for detailed trimming

- Dulls quickly on bone

- Open blade creates risk of cuts

- Less force for chopping tasks

- Hand/wrist strain if overused

- Exposed blade risks finger cuts


Meat Removal Methods: When to Use Knives vs. Shears

Knives and shears offer unique benefits based on several key aspects. These include the exact cut, precision level, speed, and ability to prevent repetitive motion injuries. As the following procedures show, the optimal tool depends on the goals and demands of each task:

Pulling Tenders

A typical approach for pulling tenders uses three workers. The first scores the side, the second scores the keel bone, and the third manually pulls the tenders loose from the bone. They then use shears to cut the tendon at the top of the tender. 

Following the 80/20 rule, the above process reflects the majority. However, not all facilities clip the tendon. Wolff Industries sells a double-bladed knife that eliminates steps in this process. This innovative tool differs from all other double-bladed knives in several ways:

  • It allows for a singular, quick-cutting pass that reduces labor and increases productivity levels
  • Training gets reduced from months to mere hours 
  • It’s spring-loaded to fit all bird sizes – most other double-blade knives have fixed handles and don’t adjust
  • Increases yield by 1 to 2 points when used correctly

Cutting Wings

Cutting wings off the carcass is most efficiently done with a knife in one smooth motion. The knife's straight edge and pointed tip allow for an easy pass through the joint. Sturdy, fixed-blade knives help prevent tearing. With minimal effort, they let workers smoothly sever the entire wing in one pass and avoid the need for re-cutting.

Removing Breasts

A sturdy, sharp knife is ideal for removing full breasts in one piece. The key is choosing a knife with enough length to make the long cut in one motion. A properly weighted knife with a minimum 6-inch blade length cleanly separates the entire breast.

Cutting Up Carcasses

Cutting carcasses into smaller pieces for further processing requires knives for separation and shears for cutting through cartilage and bone. Workers tend to use at least two knives for every one shear. 

The right mix of thin, tapered knives and heavy-duty shears lets workers rapidly and efficiently break down carcasses. This prepares the portions for subsequent processing steps.


Trimming remaining meat or cutting skin post-processing relies mainly on knives' precision and thinner blades. A knife allows precise, detailed cuts to remove tissue and unwanted remnants. Their tapered points grant better control than shears for intricate trimming.

For thicker cartilage and connective tissue, shears are optimal. Look for sturdy, heavy-duty shears that can efficiently chop through these tough materials. Their heavier blades excel where knives fall short.

Selecting the proper knife is crucial for maximizing trimming. Look for thin, pointed blades that can access tight spots and non-slip handles for control. A knife well-suited to the task results in smooth, efficient trimming.

Best Poultry Shears

Several different types of poultry processing shears will improve efficiency and reduce costly rework:

Wolff® 6287 poultry shearsWolff® 6287-LR 9" Ergonomix® Poultry Scissors - 6000 Series Stainless Steel Shears - The high-carbon stainless steel blade provides high cutting efficiency and extra long edge life. An ergonomic design and thermoplastic handles allow for maximum cutting efficiency and comfort.

Wolff® 6294 poultry shearsWolff® 6294-LR 9 5/8" Ergonomix® Poultry Scissors - 6000 Series Stainless Steel Shears - The 9 5/8" poultry scissors allow you to process many different types of meat. A 58 HRC hardness rating makes this one of the smoothest and hardest shears available.


KAI® 5220 poultry shearsKAI® 5220 8 3/4" Ergonomix® Poultry Scissors - 5000 Series Stainless Steel Shears - The high-carbon steel allows for clean, quick, and precise cuts. Santoprene® handles reduce hand fatigue.



KAI® 5240 poultry shearsKAI® 5240 9-1/2" Ergonomix® Poultry Scissors - 5000 Series Stainless Steel Shears - Highly durable high-carbon steel withstands heavy daily use.




Best Poultry Knife

Speed up work and improve safety with a poultry knife designed to be a cut above the rest:

Wolff Double-Blade Tender Knife for Poultry Processing - The SMS1015 Double-Blade Tender Knife features stainless steel spring-loaded blades that adjust to fit all bird sizes for clean cuts along bones. 

The hinged handle enables easy disassembly for sharpening and cleaning. The singular cut boost yields 1-2 points higher versus the traditional X-cut. It lessens labor, increases productivity, and needs minimal training.

Practical Tips for Selection and Use

There are several best practices for tool selection and use that enable safer, more efficient poultry processing:

  • Prioritize quality and ergonomics. Durable, comfortable tools prevent injuries and rework.
  • Train staff on proper knife and shear handling techniques. Emphasize cautions like finger placement and buddy poke awareness.
  • Implement sound maintenance like routine sharpening and blade care. Well-maintained tools perform optimally.
  • Provide workers with their preferred tool for comfort if the policy allows flexibility. Comfort promotes focus.
  • The proper cutting tools significantly impact processing productivity, increased yields, and worker well-being. 

Carefully weigh the tradeoffs when outfitting your operation with knives, shears, or both. With proper selection and handling, these vital tools will serve your processing needs safely and efficiently. 

Contact Wolff Industries to schedule an assessment of your lines. Our experts will evaluate and recommend the optimal tools for your processing team. With decades of experience equipping poultry plants worldwide, we can suggest the perfect knife and shear options for your unique needs.

Get the Most from Your Knives and Shears

Efficient and safe poultry processing requires having the right tools for the job. The choice between the two involves considering vital factors such as meat removal methods, safety concerns, costs, and sharpening needs.

The experts at Wolff Industries will help you select and implement the ideal poultry-cutting tools to optimize your lines. Browse our selection of high-quality poultry processing knives and shears below.

Poultry Processing Scissors

Poultry Processing Knives

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