Meat Processing Equipment

Small Meat Processors June 12, 2017 Print Friendly and PDF

What's on this page?

The right equipment can make a world of difference in a small meat processing facility.  On this page we have videos of several processors sharing their favorite pieces of equipment and processor-to-processor advice about equipment.

What do other processors buy? Any suggestions on what to get? 


Equipment Videos

Chill Cell

Mike Satzow of North Country Smokehouse shows us their Chill Cell which cooks product and then chills it in the same unit.

 

Handcrank "Z" Linker

Richard Huettman of Acre Station Meat Farm shows us their Handcrank Z Linker which automatically cuts individual sausage links. Read more about Acre Station here.

 

Dip Tank for Heat-Shrinkable Vacuum Bags

Richard Huettman of Acre Station Meat Farm shows us their packaging equipment.  Read more about Acre Station here.

 

Digi-Auto Wrap

Jim Mays of Mays Meats shows us their Digi-Auto Wrap machine, which automatically wraps trays and applies labels.  This machine is great for small plants with a retail outlet.

 

Brine Injector

Uli Bennewitz of Weeping Radish Brewery and Butcher Shop shows us his brine injector.  This piece of equipment is used to inject brine and spices into cooked and smoked products.

 

Vacuum Tumbler

Richard Huettman of Acre Station Meat Farm shows us their 500 lb. vacuum tumbler.  The tumbler speeds up the brining process from several days to several hours.  Read more about Acre Station here.

 

Ergonomic Carcass Cutting- aka "The Beast" 

This machine, called "The Beast," holds and rotates carcasses giving processors an ergonomic way to cut primals off the carcass. It also lets you bone out a carcass without splitting it. 

 

 

Processor-to-Processor Equipment Advice

Our listserv is a great resource for answering your equipment questions.  Below are a few equipment-related conversations from the listserv: 

Table of Contents

Wellsaws

Water Activity Meter

Fat Analyzer

Sanitation Swabs

Rollstock Machines

POS System

Steam Boiler

Label Machines/ Inventory Management

Smokers

Rail Height

Scales 

Slicers

 

WELLSAWS

Question: We use 2 Jarvis Wellsaw 404's, which are good, but they keep breaking their gear drives, very annoying.  Does anyone have suggestions for a good alternative?  The Jarvis 444's are the obvious choice, but they are expensive and over twice the weight.  We also have a few sawzalls, but the cutting is not as precise and they aren't made for wet environments, and short out with regularity.

Answer: I would suggest you call Don at Equipment Distributing of America (402-592-9360).  We have his equipment (EFA brand saws) and have used it hard for the last 5 years and it has held up well.  If you tell him what you are using the saws for he will get you set up with the right equipment.  A tool balancer is a good way to offset the weight of the heavier saws.  They will cost you more than a well saw but a cheap saw that does not work isn’t much help.

 

WATER ACTIVITY METER

Question: We are doing some work on our retail establishment program and are wondering about firms that use water activity meters in-house.  Is anyone using one, what kind, and are they expensive to purchase or operate?  

Answer #1: Check out www.aqualab.com.  They are a leader in water activity measuring devices and provide lots of outreach to customers.  They are not cheap but I have only found one other company that offers a meter-- can't remember name right off hand.  I have been to some of Aqualab training it was very useful.

They have bench top meters and a portable handheld device too. 

Answer #2: Decagon Devices/Aqualab (same company) makes a portable one that costs $1500.00-$2,000.00, I think.  Get it. Anyone who manufactures a shelf stable meat product should have this as standard equipment because it is a very valuable instrument in the data it provides.  Average test time is about 5 minutes and it needs to be calibrated every day that it is used.  We use one all the time and have thought about upgrading but the portable model is reliable and easy to use anywhere in the plant.  In my opinion it is a very wise purchase/investment.

 

FAT ANALYZER

Question: Just wanting to check in with everyone about fat analyzers for ground beef. Who has experience with these for a smaller scale operation (a couple hundred lbs. of grind a day) and what brands do you prefer and why? Any specific models to stay away from or potential calibration issues? Below is a list of a few units I have researched a little, but feel free to offer up suggestions on these or any other units:

  • CEM ProFat Meat Analyzer
  • Univex FA-73 Fat Analyzer
  • DSC HFT 1000F

Answer #1: We use the Univex. We use it every week. Works fine for our needs. No major complaints. Simple operation and not overly expensive to purchase. Here's a post I did for our customers. Shows pics of the unit in action. http://johnscustommeats.blogspot.com/2012/01/fat-fun.html

Answer #2: We use the Univex.  Super easy and simple.  Well built and durable.

Answer #3:  I use the Univex FA-73. Sent it back to the company once for repair but no problems since. Very affordable and easy to work and read.

Answer #4: I hate to be the voice of dissent in this conversation but if accuracy is what you are looking for I would not recommend the Univex.

I did a fair amount of research on this a year ago and decided to go with the DSC instead.  It cost more but is more accurate in that it actually gives a digital read out of the fat content and is not subject to interpretation like the Univex.  I’ve used the Univex already and while it is durable it did not have the accuracy that we were looking for. 

The DSC is what we decided to go with and it works well but I’ll be honest that it bugs me that cooking a sample and measuring the grease run off is the popular way to measure fat content.

Plain and simple it is dumb, but until I find a biomedical expert to help me research my idea for a tester, we’ll have to settle for what we have.  I know that there are other options like Near Infrared technology but those options are expensive and appear to require a lot of calibration to remain accurate.

Answer #5: We use the Univex FA-73.  Works well for our needs.  We do 600 lbs. of ground a week.  No problems easy to use.

Answer #6: Accuracy point well taken, my biggest issue with these small samplers is just that  - small sample size, because:

  • If you only have a 1-2 ounce sample for 500+ lbs. of meat, how representative is that 1-2 oz.? It depends on how homogenous your grind is. So regular sampling is important throughout a run.
  • If you can only sample finished ground, and not trim, you’re already at your end product stage. It’s hard to add fat back in, and impossible to take it out (without grinding more).

After using a DSC HTF 2000 for a number of years, we found a used Anyl Ray fat sampler for a couple grand. It measures 13 lbs. of trim at a time, non-destructively. We grind 10,000 lbs. in a day, so this was a must for us.

Still, all this said, it is worth keeping things in perspective and not getting too over-the-top on accuracy, especially for very small plants: you can be 20% over on your fat, and be legally compliant with your label. So 90% lean/ 10% fat can really be up to 12% fat, and 85% lean/15% fat can really have up 18% fat, per 9 CFR 317.309(h)(5).  And you can be under on your fat as much as you want with no regulatory consequence.

 

 SANITATION SWABS

Question: We are considering purchasing a quick swab test kit for spot checking tabletops, work surfaces, machines, etc. as part of our SSOP program.  Some read presence of glucose, others read presence of proteins.  I would love some feedback - Do you find these kits effective? Useful?  Is there one kit type/manufacturer/source that you would recommend?  We are flying blind here - would love some input, either positive or negative.

Answer: A lot of people use Charm swabs.  Easy to learn, easy to use. http://www.charm.com/en/products/atp-hygiene-swabs.html

 

ROLLSTOCK MACHINES

Question: Any of you use a rollstock machine for small batches if you process for multiple farmers? Say you are making sausage for 5 farmers, ~100-200 lbs for each of them, and can run them through the rollstock one after another.

Another way to ask is what’s the minimum batch size for using rollstock, and can you easily segregate product from different farmers?

Everyone likes how rollstock packaging looks, but can a small plant really afford to have/use one?

Also, are there any decision trees or guides out there to help a processor choose the right packaging equipment for a given size/type of business?

Answer #1: Yes we use a rollstock for packaging small batches and multiple farmers.  The question of easy segregation is going to depend on the competency of the crew running it.

We use our rollstock every day and every product that we run on it would be considered a small batch.  The trick is good communication and some sort of break between batches.  We typically leave a whole advance cycle in between the different batches and the tags for each batch are passed down to the end and lined up as the product exits the machine.  The multiple options for regulating the machine speed also help to facilitate the smaller batches but for some products it also helps to stage it before it gets to the machine. 

I would suspect that most small processors that are running small batches aren’t going to have much in the way of real estate to put most Rollstock machines and the RA-200 from Rollstock, Inc (one of the smaller ones on the market) would be sufficient for the average processor’s needs.

Answer #2: There is no problem doing what you want to do with small batches, all you have to do is take a black marker and make a mark on the edge of last package and then start with the next order.  We have had a roll stock for a couple of years now and wouldn’t be without it. You won’t believe the time it saves. We don’t even start to package until we have 6-8 hogs cut because the machine is so fast. It does take some getting used to as you have to adjust your cutting a little and watch for sharp bones but you have to do that with vacuum pouches too.

Answer #3: With us it depends on the whole day production. If we only have 200 lbs. of bulk product (5-6 lbs.) we won't bother since on our machine being so large we would waste more film then what is required to the packaging. We do a fair amount of slicing bacon for farmers and we just leave a empty package to separate between each.

Answer #4: I liked the answers that have been posted so far, and found them helpful, as we ask ourselves this same question regularly.  The answers so far have looked at the question from an operational perspective.

The plant also needs to look at it from a financial perspective.  Here is a quick scenario:

Assume the dealer will finance the machine.  Say it cost $80,000, no money down, 4 year term, 5% interest then the monthly carry is $1,842.  Anyone can download a free amortization schedule and very easily play with this - change price, term, interest rate.  But the above is not far-fetched. (It does assume no money down, which may be unlikely!)

Your standard processing fee is what it is, and is unlikely to cover the additional carry.  But say you charge $.50/lb to process that sausage.  at 200 lbs/week/customer, with 5 customers doing it, that is 5 * 200 * $.5 = $500/week, or $2000 per month.  That is enough to pay the monthly carry for the machine.  However, some of those charges are needed to cover labor, spices, and rollstock plastic.  But you can do other things with the machine, such as pack a number of other cuts (Provided you have the necessary plates).  Is the extra speed and packaging quality worth the extra monthly costs?  Only if you have enough volume to support it.  The packaging quality will definitely attract customers to you, IF there is a robust packing economy in your area.  A big if in many parts of the country.

You need to run these scenarios before you pay.  Remember, the easiest person to lie to is yourself!

 

POS (Point of Sale) SYSTEM

Question: Hello, I'm looking for a PoS system for a retail meat market with a deli component. Anybody have ones they like or that I should avoid?

Answer #1: I've had a really bad experience with CounterPoint SQL  But I believe it is because of the support (or lack of) from the authorized agent.   So beware - it may be a great product but you have to buy it from a good source.

Answer #2: We just dropped a great deal of money on an all bells and whistles  Radiant system with CounterPoint SQL.  Have to be honest, at this stage - I am not sure it was worth it.  I think the way square are going (Starbucks just adopted them!!) and the apps you can get for modern tablets and phones... that is a very economical way of getting started. Despite our fancy computer, we all still navigate to paper records and orders and inventories - so, I'd suggest caution.

Answer #3: There is a company in Burnsville, MN called LPA Retail Systems check them out, I have not used it but know plants that do and like it.

Answer #4: The biggest key to a POS system is knowing what  you want from it and communicating that to the vendor. You need to be able to tell them what you want it to be able to do, but not in generalities. I have been using CounterPoint SQL for 5 or so years now. I used CounterPoint V7 before that. I will be the first to tell you it is not cheap, but what a good POS can do for  you is worth it. But as I said you must be able to communicate with the vendor your exact needs/desires and don't accept anything short of it. CounterPoint is my third POS system and I have had my trials with it also, but it has been the one that has served my needs the best.

There are many systems out there, but I had a difficult time finding one that would read & generate random weight barcodes. I have a fresh retail meat case so everything is random weight.

Another one to look at is Quickbooks PoS. If you don't have many items and do not need random weight barcodes this may be an option. I do know of another processor using Quickbooks PoS and they found a third party that was able to tweak it to read random weight barcodes.

Biggest thing is don't be in a hurry to buy the first thing that comes along. Do your homework and research on them, and especially the service end. That's where it gets VERY expensive is the support on the back end. Good luck!

Answer #5: Related to this question, NMPAN did do a webinar on "Orders and Inventory Management" a couple of years ago.

Three systems are discussed by users, one of which is at its core a PoS system.

http://www.extension.org/pages/27531/order-inventory-management-webinar

 

STEAM BOILER

Question: I'm thinking I'm going to need a steam boiler for the small slaughter / processing plant I'm building in west Texas. Does anyone have any wisdom or experience with these things that they would be willing to share? I would like to buy one unit that I can use for cleaning and steam injection into my smokers. Is that possible or even desirable? Can you inject the same steam that you use for cleaning into the smokers?

The plant will be approx. 5,000 sq.ft. with a remote inedible room and I plan to eventually have two single truck smokers. I don't have any idea what size unit I'll need.

Will it be practical to run a hose from the plant out to the inedible room… maybe 50 - 75 ft.?

Do you have to add chemicals to the water?

How much trouble are these things to operate and maintain?

Is it better to buy electric or gas?

Answer #1: We bought a small electric boiler to run our sausage peeler- it is a Reimers Electric Boiler. I looked long and hard to find this brand. It was the right price and works very well. 

There are some advantages to having a boiler for hot water and for your smokehouses but it is not needed. We have been running a 10,000 sq. foot plant that does about 175 head of beef/bison and makes about 15,000 lbs sausage a week and have never had a boiler.  Make sure you check your insurance and workers comp.- live steam can affect your ratings.

Answer #2: From the mechanical stand point you will need to know what your "load" is, i.e. how much steam you need for the task.

For the cleaning side you may want to start with a pressure washer that has a steam cleaner option. They typically use fuel oil in a reservoir that has a burner to make steam.  Stay portable so you can use it for multiple tasks.

Steam is "clean" just by its nature (too hot to grow anything), but the delivery system most likely will need to be stainless for food grade. The commercial kitchen manufacturers make steam generators or "boilers" that run kettles, boasters and the like. Hey, may be the avenue to start for your smokers! Gas is always cheaper to buy, maintain and operate than electric.

Answer #3: A good heating guy can size your unit.  Electric boilers are great for point of use but I'd do some energy calculations to determine what to put in for hot water. Steam production is going to end up being natural gas at today's prices except for point of use.  About $7 per million btus compared to $30 for electric. Propane was just as high a few months ago but is down closer to $14 per million now. Geothermal electric can be cheaper than gas long term in some situations.  especially in a non-demand situation.  We get 4.8 cents a kilowatt before demand charges on rural member co-op power.   Staying off the demand produces a million btus for about $4.  The downfall on geo's are the upper limit on temps are too low that you still have to finish with gas. 

Personally, I'd heat exchange potable water for smoke house steam just because I wouldn't want the water heating chemicals on my product.

Just a wild guess not knowing at all what you mean by "small" you'll want at least a 10-15 hp boiler.   And personally I'd consider the options carefully. Boilers give up 10-20% over the high efficiency gas hot water heaters. More when you count storage losses compared to a tankless or tankless hybrid like the Eternal.  

Answer #4: I installed a gas-fired smoker a few years back and learned a bit from it that may help you. It was an Alkar smoker which held 12 trucks if I remember correctly. It was purchased used and I moved it to another location and installed it.

The main heat source was natural gas and a separate steam system was used to control the humidity during the various stages of the smoke process. I used a small electric steam spa boiler for the steam side to add steam to the cabinet when the recipe called for it. I liked it because it had a small footprint (about the size of a sewing machine) and it only fired off when the smoker called for humidity. I wouldn't think you need a boiler at all for single truck smokers. I imagine there is more natural gas in west Texas than should be legal so I would use that or tie it into one of those wind turbines out behind the barn. :-) 

Bottom line in my opinion is I would contact a smoker manufacturer(s) and tell them what you want to do. I say Alkar only because that was what showed up on the lowboy. They were very helpful when I needed tech help, etc.  We had another new two truck unit made by an outfit in Oregon which was very nice but the name slips my mind right now, but Google is your friend.

Answer #5: We process roughly 20/40'ish beef (or equivalent) per week depending on time of year, not including wild game seasons, and run three smoke ovens nearly continuously. We use a tankless gas on demand water heater. I love it. I can set my desired temperature and carry on without a hitch.  Our gas bill runs under $900 per year.  After cleaning, I crank off the tank for sanitizing.  More than serves our needs.

Answer #6: We don't use steam in our smoke house.  We don't do ready to eat and even if we did I'm not sure we'd produce a product that required steam under appendix a.  We built our smoke house.  Old fashion poured masonry, insulated, and lined it with stainless steel.  We actually heat our smoke house with hickory logs. I don’t do humidity control.  I tied the combustion fans into the thermostat so it gravity drafts when the temp is ok and kicks the fire up when it's calling for heat. 

There was a time when you were required to have 180 degrees for slaughter.  I've not been in the industry long enough to ever see steam be required for cleaning.   I'm still convinced its better than all the chemical interventions because of the variables that must be adhered to with bleach, quat, etc.

I think the common cleaning now days is hot enough water to remove the fat and blood and then sanitizers.  That's what we do.

 

LABEL MACHINES/ INVENTORY MANAGEMENT

Question: Our local meat processor is able to place the name of the producer,  the cut name, weight, etc. on each label.  However, the processor says they have no method of reporting the total quantity of each type of cut from each steer so that the producer can have an accurate inventory of what a particular animal yielded.  When one of the producers called the label machine manufacturer, he was told there is no labeling machine in existence that can give a cumulative inventory of what it labeled. In other words, for a producer to determine the output of an animal, he/she must handle each package individually and manually create an inventory. It would seem there should be a more efficient, less "hands-on" way of doing this.  What do you think?

Answer:  You should do the following:

  1. Find out what type of label system or brand the company works with- i.e. Hobart, Case, Mettler Toledo, Berkel, etc.
  2. Find the model number of the scale and call the company the services the scale.   Try to get a hold of a service technician that works with your processor, as opposed to the sales dept.
  3. Get the owners manual.  Find  in the owners manual where it describes how to get the "run totals" for item numbers or PLU's for the cuts of meats you are interested in.  Scales are basically little computers.  Computers do what?  They collect information.
  4. Once you have confirmed that the scale is capable of creating this information, offer to pay the service technician to come in and train the processor on how to get the information.

For example, I work with Mettler Toledo Scales.   I started out with only the 8461 Deli Scale in my plant.  It is capable of providing the information you are seeking.  I now use an auto weigh label system, also by Mettler Toledo (the 8361/706 system).  This also provides the same information.  These are older systems.  Unless your processor is using scales from the 1970's or earlier they should be able to do this.  If not, you just might need to ask them to create a hand written report.  Offer them $0.05/lb. more to do it.  For a 700 lb. carcass that would be $35.00 dollars, which would help cover the processor's cost of creating the inventory by hand and ensure that the customer gets the information they want. 

 

SMOKERS

Question: We are looking for a one-truck pass-through smoker.  We are looking at:

  • Enviro-Pak: CVU-650E
  • Friedrich: FMP1000E
  • Vortron: 3800-PG
  • MPBS Industries, FlavorCook Model STH-1000E

Which would you recommend?  Does anyone have experience with these brands and would recommend one over the other?  Any bad experiences?  Any sources for used pass-through smokers?

Answer #1: We just bought 3 two truck pass–through houses from Scott and are very happy with them.  I would look at Pro Smoker before I did a Vortron and would look at a pellet generator if you are planning on using natural wood smoke.  With the new Scott houses we went from a 4 hour smoke/cook cycle to a 1 ½ hour cycle and a much more consistent finished product.

Lad Rudik is the owner of Scott, and you can reach him at lad[at]scottpec.com.  Their web address is scottpec.com.  I didn’t do much research, I saw them at a trade show and started asking questions. One day, Lad called me and asked if he could stop by, as he would be in the area installing a smokehouse at a small plant in WI.  I told him I didn’t have any questions but would like to come with to the install to see how they set up the smokehouse and how smooth the install went. He checked with the plant owner and then invited me to watch the set-up.

It went so well I was sold. The Scott brand would be the next smokehouses we would own. Years ago, I started with a block gravity house. The first micro-processor house we had was a Smith, then an EnviroPak and then a Vortron.  I would not say any of them were bad, In fact I have two Vortron 1,000 lb. houses for sale.  For us it was the right decision, the speed and consistency of the Scott house is just what we needed.

Answer #2: Donovan Daws is also Scott dealer. 970-692-3905. 

Answer #3: I'd just like to add my 2 cents worth on the endorsement of Scott smokehouses.  We added a Scott 1,000 lb. single truck smokehouse to our operation about a year ago and are extremely happy with it.  The smoke production is fantastic.  It puts out product in much less time and produces a superior product.  We also run an Alkar 750.  The Alkar is a good smokehouse but it doesn't compare to the Scott.

 

RAIL HEIGHT

Question: We are putting meat rails in our processing facility -- we do not do any slaughter. We receive 1/4 steer, 1/2 hog, and whole lamb & goats.  We have found USDA guidelines for slaughter facilities saying that the top of the rail must be 9' away from the highest point on the ground for headless hog.  This seems quite high for our cut & wrap facility.

Answer #1: You should keep the carcass at least 1 ft. from the floor.  So measure the carcass you are processing then determine what hook size you are going to use, do the math and you will know how high the top of rail will need to be. We do full sides of beef and our top of rail is 11 ft.  Here are two companies that design and make rail systems that can help you: Hantover and Bowlin Manufacturing.
 
Answer #2: In my plant inside the cooler the top of my rails are at 7.5 ft.  I wouldn't go any lower than that.  7.5 ft to 8 ft should work fine for what your doing.  It is exactly how I have carcasses hanging in my plant.  At 7.5 ft., bigger hogs or longer hogs become an issue with touching the ground.  Over 8 ft and generally nobody is going to be able to grab the hooks off the rail once you have broken down the carcass that your working on. 

Answer #3: 9 feet sounds right. Once you hang the hog from it's back legs and it spreads down it will be 7 feet plus.
 
Answer #4: I believe what you have read are what you stated..."guidelines". USDA won't tell you how it HAS to be, just as long as you can prevent contamination of the product. 

Answer #5: I wouldn't go under 9'. Just my advice. If you go lower and you end up with hogs with any size on them, you'll be creeping a little too close for comfort on the floor. Our rails are 11.5' but we hang full sides. I have a few hogs in here now that are easily pushing 6' long hanging and that doesn't include the roller or hook. I'd plan for worse case scenario. Measure rollers, hooks, gambrels, etc.. add to 12" safety zone from floor, factor in high end length of carcasses, and you'll have your needed height.

 

SCALES

Question: What type of printing scale would work well for a custom, retail use?  What software is compatible with the whole system?

Answer #1: I've been researching this same issue. Found several software products that have lots of capabilities but are very pricey.  $20 to $30k.   Seems that if you are able and willing to do some of your own programming you can save considerable dollars.  But that takes time so we each have to make a business decision on how much value the software adds to the bottom line.  I think most printers can be customized for whatever labels you need. 

Answer #2I attended a really good workshop at the 2013 New England Meat Conference where scales, inventory reports and invoicing were being discussed.   Several people seemed to be working on some solutions.   After the workshop I spoke with a really helpful processor who recommended the Torrey LSQ-40L scale for printing out labels that had the correct sized font for USDA recommendations.

In August, my backup scale for my poultry processing facility failed and I bought a Torrey LSQ-40L.  I really wish I could find the woman who recommended it so she could help me with it.   I have finally found the right labels, I think, but I have yet to be successful with printing them.   The next step is to tackle transferring the info on the scale into a database.   I think that will be a big learning curve and I think I even need to buy something that is an intermediate piece of technology between the scale and the computer.   I’m not sure.

Answer #3: I use Mettler Toledo scales in my plant.  They have a very reasonable price software program that you can pick up as well and can network all the scales to your desk for price changes, etc.  There are many great options out there.  If your on a budget like most of us this is great option.  I would describe the system as 80% of what I really would like to have at my plant.  It isn't perfect but it is well below the cost of many of the systems that are out there.  

Answer #4: We have Ishidas. They work much better than the CAS machines we had. Just like people have recommended to buy refrigeration through someone that will work with you, I'd recommend the same thing for a label machine. Those hours in the office on the network computer with the IT person trying to communicate with label machines to get labels printed so you can load a truck are very frustrating. And we process two shifts and ours always seemed to fail at a time the service tech wouldn't answer his phone. And remember, USDA takes labeling issues very serious. It's the largest reason for recalls. 

Answer #5: We use a CAS CL5000 and it comes with a pc based program “CLworks” to keep prices updated.  It provides barcoding for POS and I can keep multiple customer’s price lists stored in it.  We purchased it without the Ethernet option which I would rethink if I were to purchase again but the rs232 connection is sufficient for our needs.  Overall it is a reliable scale and the ability to connect with a computer makes a worthwhile investment.

I haven’t looked into printing inspection information on it since we only use it for weight and pricing purposes, the USDA required information is printed using Labelview software.  Labelview doesn’t have the capabilities to connect with a scale but I know that the upgraded version of the software “Codesoft” is able to do it and based on my knowledge of Labelview it is something we may look into down the road.

Editor's note: the mention of the Labelview software generated a side conversation on whether or not the program could connect with a scale...

Labelview Comment #1: LabelView does have ability to connect with a scale. I'm setting up a printing station right this very minute with LabelView. You have to use the COMwatch function to listen to the COM port for the RS232 output. This is from a scale indicator like the CAS x320 or the Doran 7000XL. The printing is then through LabelView to a separate printer, in my case a Zebra ZM400. This said, this is probably a more complicated and expensive solution than is needed for a small custom retail shop, as the original posting asked. But just wanted to respond to your post.

Labelview Comment #2: What version of Labelview are you running? We have Labelview12 and in conversations with tech support, they told me that it was not possible with v12. I am familiar with this process in Labelview8 and older as I had worked with the COMwatch function but I haven’t found that capability yet in v12.

Labelview Comment #3:  Yep, you are right, Mike.  LabelView 2012 is a bad deal. No COM watch… We have been using LabelView 8. And that works with the scales. I'm now trying to return LabelView 2012 and purchase a used copy of LabelView 8.

Labelview Comment #4: I wouldn't say that 2012 is a bad deal as it has revolutionized the way we print labels.  The fact that it doesn't work with comwatch isn't good but the overall abilities of the program is a far cry from v8.  There is still improvements that can be made as with any software but it works for us.

Answer #6: Can you describe the Labelview/COMwatch/ZebraZM400 system more?  Is it a computer with scale input and a zebra printer?

Answer #7:  Scale with indicator and RS232 output goes to computer, through Labelview, then goes to Zebra printer.

The computer is a regular PC running windows 7. All this is on 3-shelf square cart with Monitor, keyboard and mouse. Top shelf is cantilevered for easy access to the scale on the middle shelf.

Most of our label printing is done using VistaTrac with the same hardware set up. We just use Labelview for some special projects.

Answer #8: Has anyone used this software? http://www.aggsoft.com/asdl-log-scales-weight-excel.htm

 

SLICERS 

Question: Anyone have a good recommendation for slicers? Something above a retail stacker slicer but below the high speed automation of a Weber type slicer.
We are looking into brands like Biro, Grote, and Treif and would appreciate any recommendations regarding what works and what doesn’t.
 
Answer #1: We too are looking for a bacon slicer beyond our current Berkel 180. So far we haven't had problems but I've heard parts are starting to become an issue for the Berkel 180's. Has anyone heard that?  I've heard the old Anco's will really crank out bacon.  I've also heard the Biro horizontal slicer (109) is not built as durable as the European models such as a Treif. 

Answer #2:  I have always been fascinated with all of the moving parts on the Berkel 180s and from that perspective it is an impressive machine, until you have to clean it.  Cleaning those buggers is no fun job and I usually ended up with scraped knuckles and it still wasn’t clean enough for Dad.

The Bizerba A400s are nice and while they are easier to clean/use, it is still basically the same design/concept as the 180.  At 30-55 strokes per minute, the A400 is great if you only have a few bacons to slice and all day to do it.  Due to our level of production, we need something a little bit faster but 1600 strokes per minute is over kill for our needs and the faster they go the bigger the footprint seems to be.  We have a Toby that we tried for awhile but it was just too big for the space it was assigned to and we decided to put it back in storage. The horizontal slicers like the Treif Puma, or Biro 109, are the right speed but they do not stack or shingle very well and getting the product feed grippers to securely hold the product is difficult.

It sounds like we cannot be pleased but there doesn’t seem to be a good middle of the road option for slicing with stacking/shingling.  There is either really slow or really fast/big. 

We’ve come across the Grote 613 multislicer and the Treif divider 400 but I can’t find anyone that uses or has used either and I was hoping to get some feedback before making an expensive purchase.  Both are vertical feed slicers and the concept makes sense but reviews to the positive or negative are non-existent so far.

Our service issues with Bizerba are that we are geographically close to their factory support and their techs push out the local service companies by not working with them and our only option is the high priced support that Bizerba provides.  The local techs are good and it isn’t an issue of competence but rather a big company with the ability to control and withhold tech support to the smaller/local service companies.  When our equipment breaks down I don’t have the money or patience to play games with big company politics.

Answer #3: Have an Anco slicer can't say enough good about it. I've had it for about 4 years no problems so far. It does take up a lot of room. Easy clean up from the 180 we use to have. Very fast - about 15 sec on a slab bacon. 

 

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.