Fat analysis (FA) systems are rising in popularity. Unlike traditional methods of chemical lean (CL) testing, they’re not limited to boneless ground meat and are capable of inspecting all uncooked meat, whether fresh or frozen, bulk or packaged in cardboard boxes, plastic crates and even chubs. What’s more these x-ray fat analysis systems are not affected by freeze/thaw conditions, foil, metalized film, moisture, speed or meat conductivity.
This article explains eight benefits of using a fat analysis system to inspect incoming meat.
1. Ensuring the best possible batch combination is selected before recipe formulation
By determining the fat content of all incoming meat, in-line fat analysis systems allow meat processors to internally sort cartons to achieve accurate blending targets. Traditionally, production batches are adjusted by blending in more fat or lean trim to meet the fat specification required. However, by recording the fat content of each carton, FA systems allow batches to be assembled that exactly meet fat specifications. OPTUM™ batch formulation software helps to simplify this process, it takes the guesswork out of meat recipe management and creates batches to target chemical lean on FA machinery. In addition to fat measurement, FA systems are simultaneously capable of verifying weight, something which is also critical for batch and recipe management.
2. Minimizing meat in-take labor requirements
A major portion of meat trimmings are sold to processors. Grinders, for example, must ensure precise chemical lean as a vital part of their success. If grinders don’t get trimmings with a precise CL, they waste valuable process time and manpower mixing, adjusting and matching imprecise CL trimmings until they achieve the precision required by their recipe. Inspecting incoming meat helps to eliminate these manual corrections by improving batch throughput.
3. Identification of preferred suppliers and monitoring of contract compliance
By inspecting incoming meat for chemical lean (CL) value, FA systems enable meat processors to verify that delivered meat meets CL requirements specified in the purchase contract. This verification helps meat processors build relationships with suppliers they trust, as well as identify preferred suppliers. To learn more about expanding your business to international markets or major retailers, read our blog ‘Business Drivers for X-ray Inspection – Global Expansion and Major Retailer Suppliers.’
4. Contaminant detection and rejection
In addition to measuring fat content and verifying weight, FA systems are simultaneously capable of inspecting incoming meat for physical contaminants, including metal, glass, mineral stone and calcified bone. Although detection capabilities depend on product depth, meat inspection systems are available which can detect and reject 1.25 mm lead, 1.5 – 2.5 mm stainless steel and ferrous metals, as well as 6 – 15 mm bone. Using an FA system as a front end control system at a hamburger patty plant, for example, enables a grinder to keep an eye on its suppliers and return any meat containing bone, buckshot or nickel – keeping tight control on the quality of meat coming into the plant.
5. Real-time results
Traditional sampling-based methods of fat analysis are time consuming – it takes time to take samples, transport samples to the lab, prepare samples for analysis and run the analyses. In the meantime, batches or cartons of meat tend to remain in plants, tying up inventory and taking up a refrigerated ‘footprint’. In contrast, FA systems provide a highly-accurate inline method of measuring fat content and are capable of inspecting 100% of throughput in real-time and producing CL values within +/- 1CL (this means the measurement will be within 1 CL of the real CL value). To see how an FA systems work up-close, watch this video animation.
6. Quick access to product tracking information for supplier or customer feedback
With food safety regulations intensifying, compliance and traceability through every stage of a product’s life cycle are growing in importance. For full compliance, meat processors must be able to access product tracking information simply and quickly, which is impossible with current fat analysis methods. However, by dually functioning as management tools, as well as process control tools, FA systems give company leadership the information they need to make informed decisions and aid compliance. Intuitive management software, barcode readers and an SQL database facilitate greater efficiency and can help to reduce labor by allowing quality control (QC) personnel to remotely access real-time data and reports for production, rejection, weight and trending. SimulTask™ PRO advanced imaging software can aid in ensuring compliance with HACCP principles, global safety regulations, by providing on-screen diagnostics, and quality assurance traceability.
7. Protection of downstream processing equipment
By detecting and rejecting physical contaminants in incoming meat, FA systems help to protect downstream processing equipment from damage. Eliminating the risk of contaminants as early as possible in the production process is vital. An undetected piece of bone or metal could result in downtime, costly repairs and additional metallic contaminants from damaged machinery. Early detection also helps to keep costs down by removing contaminants before further value is added to products. For example, if a piece of bone found its way into a grinder, there’s a risk it could be sprayed through hamburger patties, resulting in the entire batch needing to be rejected from the line. This lost inventory is the biggest hurt to bottom-line and can be avoided with x-ray inspection of meat at the beginning of the line.
8. Comprehensive measurement data to support fat claiming
Many meat processors require incoming meat to meet a target CL. Overly fat or lean trim is a problem as it disrupts production lines and complicates recipe construction. Despite this, meat processors are not fixated on generating income by fat claims and seldom complain about overly lean meat. By enabling processors to quickly verify that incoming meat is within specification and accurately priced, FA systems have the potential to increase meat processors’ fat claim revenue. It also allows them to make other adjustments or concessions from non-compliant suppliers if they discover a batch of meat has a CL value lower than stated.