The big buzz word in the meat industry this year was automation.
According to Andreas Seydelmann, Managing Partner of Seydelmann, the scarcity of labour combined with the increasing focus on quality and food safety is behind the strong focus on automation in the meat industry.
“If something goes wrong with the product, that’s not acceptable at all. So, having to recall should be absolutely prevented. We need systems that are continuously safe.”
Focus on food safety
Seydelmann explains that today’s consumers are expecting a more diverse range of products, including niche products such as vegetarian and vegan products which are increasingly in demand. In the pet food industry things are changing too, as people are willing to pay more for pet food than they did some years ago.
On the whole, consumers have become more and more focused on product content. They want to know about the CO2 footprint, nutritional value, whether products are organic or come from a specific region. But it’s not only about knowing whether products are healthy and organic according to Seydelmann. “It’s also just to read the label and be curious about what’s inside. There could be some customers who say, ‘I want these ingredients, or I don’t like to have additives’ for example.”
Improved process control
Recipe control is one way of handling these new demands. Using advanced software to control the ingredients makes it easier to achieve traceability. Integrated fat analysis is an important source of control data. “Of course, fat analysers are absolutely relevant because nowadays the product should have a dedicated fat content and not more or less,” says Seydelmann. “We always need to look for something that is possible to integrate in the production line or to use before we receive the raw material. The better it is analysed, the easier it is for us to control the process. Our recipe control usually needs a fat content or needs standardised raw materials.”
Automatic foreign object detection
Seydelmann also highlights how foreign object detection is an important aspect to consider as part of the automation setup. “Just try to imagine that you have a foreign object in the raw material that goes into the machine, this could destroy the machine and could destroy the product. In the worst case, it is not destroying the machine or the cutting set, but the foreign object will be cut in hundred smaller pieces.” In effect, food safety is also about taking care of your machinery: “If your machine has a problem, that could end in a product problem,” he concludes.
Another factor is cost pressure. The market is changing and becoming more specialised in terms of production. “There are less different factories any more. Many have been merged or acquired by each other so the competition is probably a little bit harder and the distribution channels with the supermarkets could be very tough for them, says Seydelmann. “They need to be absolutely cost efficient and cannot give away a lot of their money by having inaccurate recipes.”
We also talked to FOSS experts Stefan Linn and Davide Manfrin, who both agreed that this year’s hot topics in the meat industry are automation and standardisation.
International Business Manager, Stefan Linn presented the advantages and economic gains of MeatMaster™ II at a ‘meet and great’ session at the FOSS stand. “What we are seeing in the industry is a strong focus on reducing labour costs and even more, to deal with the shortage of labour power in the meat industry,” he says. “This means that trim management systems, automation and robotics are strong trends at the moment. In addition to this, detection of foreign objects seems to be getting more important.”
Industry Sales Manager, Davide Manfrin, who presented the FoodScan™ 2 meat analyser at the ‘meet and great’, stressed the importance of standardisation as a means to secure consistent high-quality products. “Standardisation is crucial to ensure that consumer products taste good. As a producer, controlling incoming raw materials from suppliers and final product consistency is the key to ensuring a positive consumer experience and as a result; reducing claims and costly recalls.” With consumers becoming increasingly focused on consistent product quality, standardisation is essential. “At the end of the day, standardisation is responsible for allowing producers to grow and retain market share,” he concludes.