It’s good, but new technology can make it even better – this was the reasoning behind a rework of the production process at Böseler Goldschmaus in Northern Germany. Integrated fat control was an important requirement for the new system as part of a business goal to maintain high standards throughout the process.
Experts from FOSS were invited to discuss the requirements and proposed a MeatMaster™ X-ray analyser – an in-line instrument that measures fat content and weight of entire production batches. The instrument has a built-in conveyor belt onto which meat is placed before it passes under the X-ray eye of the instrument. Foreign object detection is performed automatically at the same time.
There are different ways to integrate an inline analyser depending on the type of production. In the set up at Böseler, the instrument has been integrated between the raw material loading section and dicing just like an ordinary conveyor. Plant manager, Tobias Flerlage explains the advantages that this brings. “At the same time as meat gets transported to the dicer, we get the information about fat content and weight which allows us to control the fat content on-the-fly,” he says.
Flexibility improves performance
The continuous measurements improve the entire batch performance because targets can be matched more closely, thereby saving lean meat. At the same time, manual work associated with controlling fat content is avoided.
Previously, pre-classified lots of trimmings were mixed according to recipes.This mix was then sampled and adjusted as necessary. Now, the material is just loaded straight into the process and the fat content is constantly measured by the MeatMaster. Production workers monitor results using the intuitive flat-screen display on the instrument. If the fat content starts getting too high or low in relation to the pre-defined recipe, it can be adjusted by selecting an appropriate lot of pre-classified trimmings.
By avoiding the pre-mixing and sampling process the company has freed-up considerable resources leading to a doubling of capacity with the same number of staff.
A new way of looking at meat
According to Flerlage, the meat industry has always struggled with deviations in fat content in raw material and finished products due to natural variations in the meat composition. This has affected product quality and raw material costs. But now the meat industry is working to standardise products more closely and this, in turn, requires standardised production processes and raw materials.
Slaughterhouse customers, such as sausage producers are becoming increasingly strict with specifications for meat trimmings and meat parts that have to be included in the delivered quality standard. The trend is towards not only buying meat according to fat content, but also to a certain composition where the fat content has an important role.
“The MeatMaster is a very important building block in our concept to realise our philosophy of total quality,” says Flerlage. “The MeatMaster gave us the great opportunity to build up an in-line concept which gives us the highest degree of flexibility compared with an objective appraisal of raw materials coming in from the trimming room, as well as using the measurements to control the fat content of or meat standards.”
The simultaneous detection of any foreign objects such as metal and bone is an added advantage. “There are only a limited number of suppliers who can guaranteea bone free product,” Flerlage says.
Is it worth installing an inline fat analyser?
When it comes to analysing fat content in meat there are other solutions that are considerably cheaper and simpler to install than an inline analyser, but as Flerlage explains, the question to ask is how much you will benefit from the investment.
In terms of installation the considerations were straightforward because the MeatMaster was installed as part of a rework of the entire production line. “The project management was well done and interfaces to other suppliers were specified upfront so that the installation performed very professionally without any unexpected delays,” he says. “In total, I would say it took less than a week from receiving the instrument until we were able to use the MeatMaster as an integrated system with all features up and running.”
The MeatMaster is now recognised throughout the plant as a user-friendly, reliable tool that has improved performance in a number of ways. Production capacity has doubled, the improved consistency of delivered products has led to a significant reduction in customer complaints, foreign object detection has provided a competitive advantage and profits have improved by getting the fat content right every time.
This last aspect alone provides a considerable return on investment. The company estimates that the new fat analysis system has led to a three per cent improvement in matching fat content targets leading to savings of around nine cents per kilo of delivered product. When applied to a typical slaughterhouse daily production of around 30 tons, this improvement translates into a saving of €2,700 per day.
Not surprisingly, Mr Flerlage is confident that the MeatMaster is the right solution for the new production set up that went into operation just six months ago. “After evaluating the effect since we have installed the MeatMaster, we are sure that we have taken the right decision,” he says. “The MeatMaster fits perfectly into our total quality concept, it is reliable, and savings have already justified the investment.”