Modern meat processors are increasingly using Least Cost Formulation (LCF) to optimize their production. LCF is a mathematical optimization technique that enables meat processors to put together a formula or recipe at the least cost or expense. It specifically applies when a formula or recipe must meet certain technical parameters and constraints, and where there is flexibility in ingredient use in meeting those parameters. When using LCF, meat processors must consider several factors, including variability in the composition of raw materials, availability of raw materials, cost of raw materials, and the demand on production.
Let’s take a sausage as an example. If you’re making sausages and the recipe states that product must consist of 40 per cent protein, but must also contain a minimum of 70 per cent pork, there are a number of ingredients you could combine to achieve this goal. Besides the necessary pork, which may be high-fat pork, one or more additional animal or vegetable proteins may be chosen to achieve the recipe target.
Additionally, the raw materials themselves will vary in composition. This variability in composition should be fed into LCF calculations for it to be of maximum benefit. What this allows is a real-time calculation, based on the actual composition of the raw materials used, to determine the best way to complete the production of the required final product, while taking into account additional variable factors, but still at the lowest possible cost to the business.
Accurate Fat Measurement Enables Least Cost Formulation
Inline fat analysis provides the means to measure the variability of the raw materials and so gives the means to control one of the key factors in calculating Least Cost Formulation. Meat processors today are continually looking for ways to optimize production, and since the largest portion of the manufactured product is the meat itself, it makes sense that this is where attention should be focused. Fat is a primary determiner of the cost of meat and the ability to measure fat content accurately is crucial to effective Least Cost Formulation.
As the saying goes ‘you can’t manage what you can’t measure’. Accurate fat measurement enables Least Cost Formulation, and this is where advanced x-ray technology comes into play. Modern in-line fat analysis systems using Dual Energy X-ray Absorptiometry or “DEXA” technology, enable fat measurement of 100 per cent of meat based on the differential absorbance of fat and lean meat content using two x-ray energy spectra. The combination of measuring all the meat, and at accuracies better than ±1CL (chemical lean), enables Least Cost Formulation control schemes to precisely meet blending targets at maximum yield.
But that’s not all…
Inline fat analysis systems are simultaneously capable of detecting and rejecting physical contaminants, including glass shards, metal fragments and calcified bone, as well as measuring weight. These additional capabilities can help prevent damage to downstream processing equipment, as well as safeguard companies against costly product recalls by preventing potentially-harmful contaminants making it through to the retail supply chain. Furthermore, by providing processors with accumulated weight and weighted chemical lean measurements in real time, fat analysis systems enable processors to control a total batch to target chemical lean at a given batch weight.