Meat firms look to boost profits

By Alyson Magee

- Last updated on GMT

Sophisticated technology is being used to monitor the nutritional content of meat as well as bones
Sophisticated technology is being used to monitor the nutritional content of meat as well as bones

Related tags: Meat

Cost increases have made more meat firms look at adding value, says Alyson Magee

Key points

Optimisation of yield, a long-established priority for the meat and poultry industry, is assuming greater importance as processors increasingly move into value-added lines to escape the tight margins associated with primal processing.

Both primal cuts and further processed meat and poultry lines are subject to increasingly strict demands from retailers and labelling regulations, needing accurate delivery of specified fat-to-lean ratios or overall protein content.

Eagle Product Inspection reports accelerated demand for its fat analysis technology over the past few years. “A lot of the value determination that goes into the yield calculation is tied to the fat content,”​ says Richard Hebel, product manager for fat analysis (FA) at Eagle. “Sales have picked up and we see that continuing into 2015.”

Meat and poultry analytics is a growing market, driven by labelling legislation, escalating specifications and auditing from the retail sector and the slim margins in meat processing, says Thorsten Niermeyer, business unit manager of process analytics at Tomra Sorting Solutions.

Monitoring meat (Return to top)

The costlier the raw material, the greater the interest in yield-maximising equipment investment, with Tomra citing optimal payback for beef. It says a processor in Ireland last year recouped its costs during a trial run.

Tomra supplies larger meat processors with its QVision 500, measuring fat, moisture, protein and collagen content for applications such as blended meats going into case-ready packs.

Launched in 2012, the inline system offers customers “the ability to blend to the correct formula, keeping all the key parameters at the correct level”,​ says Niermeyer. “We have added the ability to analyse collagen to meet new regulations, which you have to label collagen content and the collagen-to-protein ratio.”

In contrast to X-ray solutions, the QVision 500 uses light to penetrate products up to 20mm and offers full analysis abilities, while laying claim to lower cost of ownership. Tomra is continually updating the technology in parallel with evolving demands from industry. “We’re working on species detection to be able to detect pork in beef,”​ says Niermeyer. “Meat purity is one of the features we see as being important in the future.”

Eagle has formed a strategic partnership with Advanced Inspection Services to supply its fat analysis technology, notably the Eagle FA720 Pack, on a contract basis in the UK and Ireland.

It can determine the chemical lean (CL) content in packaged beef, lamb and pork to within +/- one CL in real-time, ensuring compliance with retailer meat content percentage specifications and avoids giveaway.

“We are looking at 100% of meat on the line, instead of just taking an occasional sample,” ​says Hebel, with the Eagle kit ensuring processors hit the right specification from product quality – including mouthfeel, texture and flavour – through to accurate labelling.

Eagle’s FA3C represents the latest refinement of its third generation X-ray systems using single-beam geometry to identify fat content and contaminants. “You might have a package coming down the line with pork tenderloin and the next might be pork trim,”​ he says. “What we do is look at the packages, identify the barcode and, on the fly, shift the parameters for that particular product.”

Yield recovery is an important feature of Weber slicing lines, supplied by Interfood Technology, using Proactive scanning technology in combination with the Weber Vario gripper system to offer multi-track scanning and fully independent control of each piece of product being sliced.

Products of irregular shape and inconsistent length can be sliced in multiple log, high-capacity applications, while maintaining accuracy and yield recovery across a variety of equipment from medium-sized Weber orbital blade machines through to Involute blade machines and the 905 series.

The recently launched Weber Proactive range X-ray scanning system, meanwhile, is said to be ideal for products with holes or widely varying fat-to-lean ratios including bacon and cooked meats for which yield recovery is key in controlling manufacturing costs.

Interfood Technology additionally offers a whole line dedicated to the portioning of fresh meat through its TVI total concept, which includes a patented gripper-less press and slice system, boasting less than 3% give-away for bone-in products and under 2% for bone-less.

Marel offers an array of kit laying claim to optimised yield include the Deboflex, a pork deboning system allowing operators to achieve yield-efficient cuts, and its Trim Management System using X-ray technology to measure the chemical lean of the trim and reduce giveaway of valuable lean meat.

Irish processor Slaney Foods International installed a complete Marel StreamLine system in its beef boning and trimming hall a few years ago, and has since increased throughput by 10–15%, while achieving major gains by reducing giveaway from over-trimming the primal cuts.

Marel’s RevoPortioner produces high-quality formed products from either whole muscle or trim from their primary and secondary processes while, in the poultry sector, the SensorX detects bone in fresh and cooked products.

Demand for yield optimisation is also strong from poultry processors, with Moy Park viewing it as crucial to long-term prosperity, particularly for high-value fillets. “Poultry meat is a valuable raw material and it is essential as a company we optimise batch yield, while ensuring our products maintain the highest standard of quality,”​ says Michael Hempton, continuous improvement manager at Moy Park.

Moy Park uses automatic product portioners to deliver consistent portion sizes across a range of products, and checkweigher equipment to monitor each product in real time and maintain weight consistency.

Yield Management (Return to top)

“Yield management or waste reduction is a strategy that is becoming more and more important to the processor,”​ says Sean Martin, sales manager for poultry at Marel. “Yield is paramount, but not just the total yield 50g of yield on the prime muscle is worth far more than the same 50g when it comes off as trimmings. Equally, 50g of lean meat as trimmings is worth much more than 50g of fat.”

“The only difference between you and your neighbour is how good you are at getting the best out of your product,”​ says Ulrich Nielsen, director of business solutions at Ishida. “With different pack styles and different products, yield is very important.”

Ishida’s latest multihead weigher offers the capability to handle more than one target weight simultaneously. For example, if the specification is to assemble three pieces of chicken into a 450g pack and individual pieces are deviating to offer giveaway greater than 2%, the deviant pieces will be diverted in larger packs on the same processing line.

Ishida recently collaborated with Meyn to install a chicken processing and packing plant in Russia’s Belgorod province for ZAO Prioskolie, which was seeking the highest yield from each delivery of live birds, together with efficient use of manpower and automation, and traceability.

In the integrated plant design, plucked and eviscerated birds are automatically assessed with 50% following the whole-bird packing channel and the rest re-hung for entry into one of the two cut up lines. The line can be programmed to cut to a number of different patterns, with the resulting pieces then fed into four complete lines, each capable of delivering weight-controlled packs of wings, legs, breasts or other cuts for flow-wrapping, labelling, placing in crates and palletising.

The Ishida R-Series multihead weigher, capable of handling sticky chicken and other fresh meat gently, but at high speed, was used on each of the four weigh-batchers. An entire batch of over 24,000 birds can be handled from live entry to flow-wrapped trays in about 2 hours 20 minutes, while giveaway for wings and thighs is as little as 0.2%.

Ishida’s X-ray inspection systems offer further potential to optimise yield and returns. “If you can guarantee it’s free of bone, it’s of higher value,”​ says Nielsen. “It not only detects any bone but tells you where it is so you can remove it.”

Ishida launched its IX-G2-4027-H, an X-ray model capable of detecting even the smallest bones in meat and poultry and therefore ideal for processors handling meat fillets and boneless chicken pieces, at the Interpack show in May.

Advanced dual-energy technology is used to distinguish contaminants from the product, and the IX-G2 is suitable for products overlapped in a pack or bag such as frozen chicken nuggets or sausages.

Beyond increased profits, reduced wastage, compliance with specifications and environmental benefits, optimising yield enhances meat and poultry brands “maintaining consistency and the reason to buy the brand”,​ says Hebel. “Consumers have an expectation of what it's going to be like.”

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