From poultry to vegan: how the latest weighing and inspection technologies are efficiently shap-ing change in the meat market Increased efficiency and highest product quality

The meat industry has been facing major challenges for years. Problems in the supply chain, shortages of raw materials and rising energy costs are a burden on the producing companies. The behaviour of consumers is also subject to constant change. On the one hand, it is characterised by thriftiness, on the other hand, there is a growing desire for more sustainability, quality and meat substitutes. Maximum efficiency and the greatest possible conservation of resources along the entire value chain from breeding to production to packaging are therefore more in demand today than ever before.
Find out in this article which advantages meat and meat substitute producers can draw from the latest weighing and inspection technologies from Minebea Intec and how these solutions are already increasing productivity at companies such as the Italian food group "Valle Spluga SpA" or the British meat wholesaler "R&J Yorkshire's Finest Farmers and Butchers".

Hygiene and product quality are crucial in the meat industry. Contamination or foreign bodies in meat products and the associated product recalls can not only be expensive and affect brand and company trust, but above all endanger consumer health. At the same time, cost savings, sustainability, high throughputs and the trend towards more meat substitutes are important issues in the industry. In Germany, for example, companies produced 6.5% more meat substitutes in 2022 compared to the previous year, and production even increased by 72.7% compared to 2019. This initially sounds like another challenge for meat producers, but it also offers great opportunities for growth. The global market for plant-based meat alternatives already represents billions in sales and is growing at double-digit rates.  If meat producers actively shape the necessary change and see themselves as problem solvers for the needs of consumers, they can be among the winners of this development alongside companies that concentrate purely on the production of the new vegetarian and vegan product categories.

Requirements for the production of vegetarian and vegan meat alternatives

In order to come as close as possible to the traditional schnitzel, steak or burger in terms of shape, consistency, taste, smell and mouthfeel, the highest quality standards are required in production. The recipes often consist of more than 30 individual components - be it different flavourings or fibre structures of fruit seeds, pulses or vegetable peelings. The production of meat marinades also depends on the right ratio of spices, oils and other liquids. To bring the ingredients together in the right proportions, companies work with automated mixing systems equipped with high-precision load cells from Minebea Intec. "Our weighing solutions guarantee accurate, continuous, fast and flexible dosing processes and minimise material losses," says Yannick Salzmann, Global Product Manager at Minebea Intec. The weighing solutions can be easily integrated into the production lines of manufacturing companies as an OEM solution. "Our Novego® weighing module was developed specifically for tank and process vessel weighing in the food and pharmaceutical industries," says Yannick Salzmann. "The hygienic all-in-one solution offers a variety of innovative features for easy, error-free installation as well as maximum resistance to lateral forces." The Novego® weighing module ensures process reliability, measurement accuracy and fast cleaning processes. The exceptional corrosion resistance of the stainless steel as well as the product design oriented towards the guidelines of the EHEDG make the weighing module insensitive to dirt, water and even aggressive cleaning agents.

Traceability, precision and process speed in microstructure production at Valle Spluga SpA

When the mixing process is complete and the products are on the conveyor belts, Minebea Intec's dynamic checkweighers come into play. "With the help of dynamic checkweighers, companies can optimise their production processes, improve material and resource management, and increase the accuracy and consistency of production processes," says Lars-Henrik Bierwirth, Product Manager at Minebea Intec.

To achieve precisely these goals, Valle Spluga SpA, which has been producing top-quality poultry meat for over 50 years, turned to Minebea Intec. The company's production lines were to be completely modernised and two new sorting systems installed. For the weighing and sorting solution, requirements had to be met that were strictly aligned with Valle Spluga's product portfolio. Valle Spluga SpA placed particular emphasis on a high process speed. At the same time, the entire system had to be extremely robust to withstand the intensive daily cleaning.

Minebea Intec installed two fully enclosed EWK 3010 weighing and sorting systems with a throughput of over 100 pieces per minute. The six sorting points are defined in 50g increments. Both sorting systems are IP66-protected and connected to a monitoring system specially developed for the customer. The software allows Valle Spluga SpA to control the two weighing/sorting systems, record the weights of all products and integrate the information into its own SAP management system to ensure full traceability of production and offer greater food safety to the end consumer.

Metal detector Mitus® reduces false rejections and ensures highest product quality

In addition to checkweighing, foreign object inspection plays an important role in the meat and meat substitute industry. From slaughter to packaging: meat production often takes place in a complex process with many processing steps. This poses the risk of metal parts such as nails, staples or wires from equipment or packaging materials getting into the meat products. The new metal detector Mitus® with the innovative MiWave technology enables highly precise detection of metallic foreign objects even in the largest product effects, which can occur frequently, especially in meat. With MiWave, a multitude of frequencies are modulated onto the transmitted signal, which are then separated and separately evaluated by an intelligent algorithm. With the help of this, the products can be inspected symbolically from several perspectives. Due to this significantly increased information content, high search sensitivities can be achieved despite large product effects. The result for producers: maximum product safety and maximum output.

Carefree with safety: Dypipe X-ray inspection system with innovative validation system

Since bone residues can quickly contaminate food during meat production, many companies rely on the X-ray inspection systems from Minebea Intec. In addition to metal, these systems also reliably detect foreign bodies made of stone, plastic, bone and glass and eject contaminated products. Minebea Intec has a wide portfolio of load cells, industrial and checkweighers and metal detectors, as well as a variety of X-ray inspection systems for different applications. "For the meat and meat substitute industry, we particularly recommend our Dypipe X-ray inspection system, which we recently launched," says Linus Dellweg, Global Product Manager at Minebea Intec. "This X-ray device guarantees an extremely high level of safety for viscous and liquid products."

The Dypipe is equipped with an innovative test piece insertion system that enables test piece verification in live operation. This means that producers can be sure at all times that their production processes are working perfectly and do not lose any time for testing when the plant is at a standstill. For the high hygienic requirements in meat applications, the Dypipe is equipped with an easy-to-open rejector that was specially developed for this purpose. This system guarantees excellent results and gives the security of producing high quality food.

Smart labelling for meat wholesalers: WPL-S automatic price labelling system makes the difference

Another technology for increasing efficiency in the meat and meat substitute industry are the automatic price labelling systems from Minebea Intec. The WPL-S price labelling system is the ideal labelling solution and sets new standards in a wide range of applications. At meat wholesaler R&J Yorkshire's Finest Farmers and Butchers, for example, it generates labels with a variety of information. This includes the price by weight, the best-before date depending on the product, the packaging and distribution type (fresh or frozen) as well as the cooking time depending on the product, volume and weight. The system is highly configurable and the customer can choose from a variety of components, including different display sizes, printers, scales, scanners, indicators and software solutions. "The system is simply clever. It speeds up production and is much easier to clean and maintain," says Ryan Atkinson, Managing Director of R&J. "The software is excellent. Multiple windows can open at the same time, the reporting tools are user-friendly, the internal label design software offers lots of options and the shortcuts just save time." The WPL-S pricing system also ensures full traceability of each product through the entire food chain, as required by law.

Defect-free packaging guaranteed: The VisioPointer® from Minebea Intec with hyperspectral analysis

Minebea Intec's visual inspection solutions are used at the end of the meat production line. The VisioPointer® is a forward-looking solution for, among other things, highly effective seal seam inspection of packaging in the food industry. By using hyperspectral analysis for coloured packaging or infrared for transparent packaging, the VisioPointer® can detect even the smallest leaks or irregularities in the packaging seal. This ensures product integrity and minimises the risk of contamination from defective packaging.

 "We offer our customers in the meat and meat substitute industry weighing and inspection solutions for the entire production process: from goods in to despatch. From entry-level products to premium solutions," says Lars-Henrik Bierwirth. "In addition to our high-quality equipment, we also have intuitive software solutions in our portfolio that simplify recipe processes, reduce raw material waste and have sophisticated safety features such as track and trace." For manual recipe processes Minebea Intec offers the PC software ProRecipe XT® , for automated recipe processes the software Batch-PMS is ideally suited and with the software SPC@Enterprise customers have a central data management tool at their disposal.

Automation: the path to sustainable production

Automation enables meat and meat substitute producers to save money and increase efficiency, while high-precision technology ensures product quality and protects against costly recalls. In addition, Minebea Intec's solutions help make the production process more sustainable by reducing false rejections, minimising material waste, increasing energy efficiency, optimising packaging processes and thus supporting responsible resource use. In the end, this aspect will not only please the producers, but will also be good for our environment. Because, as we all know, the environment also has some challenges ahead of it.

Info box: Benefits of Minebea Intec's solutions for the meat and meat substitute industry

  • Automation for efficiency: Minebea Intec weighing and inspection solutions are fully automated and allow seamless integration into the production line. They optimise workflows and increase production rates.
  • Reduction of false rejects: The high precision of the inspection solutions leads to a reduction in false rejects. Products are inspected reliably, minimising rejects and saving costs.
  • Ensuring hygiene and quality: The advanced inspection technologies guarantee the highest safety standards and ensure products that are free from contamination.
  • Highly effective seal seam inspection: The VisioPointer® with hyperspectral analysis enables precise and reliable inspection of seal seam integrity, contributing to improved product quality.
  • Increased sustainability: Minebea Intec solutions play an essential role in promoting sustainable production. By specifically reducing misdirection and minimising material waste, they help to use resources more efficiently. In addition, they increase energy efficiency and optimise packaging processes, which supports and enables an environmentally conscious approach.

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